For centuries, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing, and over time most of the pearl oyster population became depleted. French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1916 by trading two pearl necklaces for the property! Luckily today with the cultivation of pearls, they are more available and affordable.
The three most popular cultured pearls today are Tahitian, Akoya and South Sea.
Tahitian pearls are treasured for their rarity, their exotic color and their luster. Best known for their iridescent, vibrant, almost metallic colors, they’re commonly called “black” pearls, although they are actually gray. The most exotic Tahitian pearls increase in value and are not only beautiful to wear, but are also great investments.
The Akoya pearl is farmed to create the perfect round pearl in the southern half of Japan, which has the largest habitation of Akoya oysters. Japanese pearl growers have refined the techniques of pearl cultivation to a high art to create these most lustrous of all pearls.
South Sea pearls are among the most costly cultured pearls because of their long cultivation period. South Sea pearls command premium prices because of their rarity, tremendous size and silky luster.
QUALITY FACTORS IN JUDGING CULTURED PEARLS
Luster is considered the most important quality factor and refers both to a pearl’s brilliance and its inner glow: the way it refracts light. A pearl’s luster is generally evaluated in terms of “high” to “low,” with grades of “medium” in-between. High-luster pearls are bright and reflect objects near them clearly. Low-luster pearls, on the other hand, have low reflective and refractive qualities and may appear too white or dull.
Surface is the second most important quality in evaluating a pearl and refers to the amount and kinds of flaws that appear on the outside of a pearl in terms of “clean” to “heavily blemished” with grades in-between. “Clean” pearls have virtually no spots, bumps, pits, cracks, circles or wrinkles on them, and the cleaner the surface, the more valuable the pearl. As the term implies, “heavily blemished” pearls have many flaws and are generally of lesser value.
The size of a pearl is measured in millimeters and can generally range from 2 millimeters to 20 millimeters or more. The average and most popular size sold today is 7 millimeters. Though a pearl’s size is not an indicator of its quality, it will determine its price.
Cultured pearls display a fascinating array of colors, from white to black and virtually every color in between. No color is considered superior to another and preferences are entirely up to an individual’s taste. Rosé and silver/white pearls tend to look best on fair skins, while cream and gold-toned pearls are more flattering to darker complexions.
Pearls are generally sold as round, semi-round, drop and baroque shapes. The rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is although perfectly round pearls are very rare.
The perfect gift for a wedding, birthday, graduation or anniversary, you’ll find your strand, earrings, bracelet, ring or a single pearl necklace at Windsor Jewelers. Start or add to your pearl obsession/collection today!