Topics: Pearls, Grading

Q.
I'm interested in learning more about how pearls are graded. As far as pearl quality goes, what's good and what's not?
- Doreen, SC
A.
The best pearls are those with uniform shape, the true rounds being rare and therefore one of the most valuable. The most valuable cultured freshwater pearls are naturally white, with a touch of pink nacre. Other naturally occurring colors are the beautiful range of pinks, and peach-orange colors.

Cultured freshwater pearls are commonly bleached, polished, artificially stained and dyed, irradiated and coated in order to improve their appearance. Designer colors of cultured freshwater pearls are enhanced to blend with fashion colors.

When buying strands of pearls, look for well-matched luster, color and shape. Also look not only at the center of the strand, look down the strand to the ends. Many clever stringers place the best beads in the center of the strand, and the less expensive or lower grades are placed on the ends where most people won't notice. That's why it is important to compare the center pearls with the pearls on each end of the strand.

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