Evaluating Akoya pearls is difficult work, and it requires talent, skill and a keen eye for detail. Although no two pearls are identical, some are so well matched that it takes a professional to discern the differences between the two.
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It is a pearl evaluator's job to find and match these pearls.
How Are Akoya Pearls Evaluated?
Pearl sorters must sift through thousands of pearls to separate them based on their qualities. In fact, experts estimate that a sorter must go through approximately 10,000 Akoya pearls just to find enough pearls for a perfectly matched strand.
Sorters look for several qualities and pearls, categorizing and re-categorizing them as necessary in order to ensure they all fit within the appropriate categories.
The Six Quality Factors in Akoya Pearls
When experts are evaluating Akoya pearls, which are commonly known as the most lustrous of all pearls, there are actually looking at six distinct quality factors. These six quality factors include:
Luster. Perhaps the most important of all factors is a pearl's luster. The luster is what gives a cultured pearl its beauty. Pearl experts classify a pearls luster on a scale that ranges from poor to excellent. A pearl with a poor luster has a dim, diffused luster; a pearl with excellent luster has a bright, sharp and distinct reflection.
Size. Typically, larger pearls are more valuable than smaller pearls are. However, pearls must still meet other quality criteria new in order to be considered valuable.
Shape. Because round pearls are difficult to culture, they are rare. For that reason, round pearls are typically more valuable than pearls with other shapes are.
Color. Akoya pearls are generally white with rose overtones. In terms of color, experts look at the pearl's "body color," which is its dominant overall color; its overtone, and its orient, which is a display of iridescent colors on or just beneath its surface.
Surface quality. While some surface characteristics are not noticeable to the naked eye, others are. Like any gem, a pearl with poor surface quality is less valuable than one with excellent surface quality.
Nacre quality. Nacre quality is closely related to luster, but they aren't the same thing. A high quality pearl has a thick layer of nacre, which affects the luster and ensures that the pearl is durable.