A Brief History of Pearls: Akoya Pearl Quality Evaluation

  A brief history of pearls


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.

How pearls form in oysters
How pearls are harvested
How pearls brought to market
Know your Akoya pearls
Akoya Pearl Cultivation
Akoya Pearl Harvesting
Akoya Pearl Processing
Akoya Pearl Evaluation
Quality Factor One: Luster
Luster of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Two: Surface
Surface of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Three: Shape
Shape of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Four: Color
Color of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Five: Size
Size of Akoya Pearls
Know your South Sea pearls
South Sea Pearl Cultivation
South Sea Pearl Harvesting
South Sea Pearl Processing
South Sea Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of South Sea Pearls
Surface of South Sea Pearls
Shape of South Sea Pearls
Color of South Sea Pearls
Size of South Sea Pearls
Know your Tahitian pearls
Tahitian Pearl Cultivation
Tahitian Pearl Harvesting
Tahitian Pearl Processing
Tahitian Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of Tahitian Pearls
Surface of Tahitian Pearls
Shape of Tahitian Pearls
Color of Tahitian Pearls
Size of Tahitian Pearls
Gift Giving Occasions

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