Learn About Pearls

Pearl Farming

An oyster makes pearls on its own by secreting nacre, or mother of pearl, around an irritant that gets into its shell. At freshwater pearl farms, each mollusk is surgically implanted with 24 to 32 tiny pieces of mantle tissue, a process known as nucleation. Once the tissue has been inserted, a sac forms and cells begin secreting nacre forming a calcium-carbonate compound - a pearl. Over the course of 2 to 7 years, the mollusks deposit layer upon layer of nacre around the growing gems, generally producing more than two dozen pearls clustered on the inside of each shell.

Pearls are only produced by oysters in unpolluted, pristine water. Even slight levels of pollutants will prevent oysters from proper pearl production.  Pearl farmers take care to maintain clean water habitats and take great care, nurturing their oysters for many years.

Pearl Ratings and Classifications

The pearl specifications are based on the six basic characteristics of fresh water pearls used industry wide. These characteristics are lustre, surface, shape, size, color and matching.

Pearls are classified by origin, then graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster, surface clarity, and matching. These qualities are not considered equal. Some factors will be weighted to give them more influence in arriving at a final grade. A very thin nacre thickness, for example, could never yield a fine quality pearl.

 Grade A AA AAA
Shape Near round Mostly round Round
Luster Fair Good High
Surface < 75% clean > 75% clean > 90% clean
Nacre 0.25 - 0.35 mm 0.35 - 0.5 mm 0.5+ mm
Matching Fair Good Very good
 

Luster


Of the seven pearl value factors, luster might be the most important. Luster is what gives a pearl its unique beauty. Luster is the shine that adds depth to the pearl’s brilliance, the way it reflects light and its inner glow. It is like clarity in a diamond. Within a pearl type, when other value factors are equal, the higher the luster, the more valuable the pearl.

 

 

Excellent – Reflections appear bright and sharp
Very Good – Reflections appear bright and near sharp
Good – Reflections are bright but not sharp, and slightly hazy around the edges
Fair – Reflections are weak and blurred
Poor – Reflections are dim and diffused

Pearls of low luster appear chalky or dull. Poor luster pearls are often coated or lacquered to improve their appearance. This coating is not permanent and will wear away. Pearlicity uses only Very Good or Excellent natural luster pearls.


Nacre


Luster and nacre quality are closely related. If the nucleus is visible under the nacre, or if the pearl has a dull, chalky appearance, you can assume that the nacre is thin. Nacre quality affects the luster as well as the durability of the pearl.


The surface (or “nacre”) coating of a pearl looks smooth. That shiny luster and gleam is what makes them beautiful. But the nacre is actually made up of millions of tiny crystals, so it’s not actually ‘smooth’. That’s why one common test for a “real” pearl is to rub it on your teeth. The tiny imperfections and roughness will be felt as a ‘grittiness’ that signals a genuine pearl.

The exact shape and size of the aragonite platelets are ultimately what influences a pearl's two most important quality attributes: luster and orient. The platelets' own thinness and transparency is comparable to a wavelength of white light, which makes the transmission and refraction of light rays possible throughout the crystalline layers. Upon coming into contact with the surface of the pearl, a significant percentage of white light is able to penetrate the top layer and work its way through the nacre strata. Each platelet that the light comes into contact with acts as a tiny prism, breaking up the beam and refracting back a subtle rainbow of color that is visible on the surface of the pearl.


Surface


Surface quality refers specifically to the abundance or absence of physical blemishes or flaws. When evaluating surface (the trade uses such terms as blemish, spotting and cleanliness), remember that cultured pearls are grown by live oysters in nature. As such, there are many uncontrollable forces that affect the surface.


Like colored stones, most pearls never achieve perfection. Some might show abrasions that look like a series of scratches on the surface, or a flattened section that doesn’t affect its basic shape, or an irregular ridge that looks like a crease or wrinkle. If surface characteristics are numerous or severe, they can affect the durability of the pearl and severely depress its value.

Pearls are a natural product and like handblown glassware, small natural imperfections are not only acceptable, they may even be desirable. Unacceptable faults include cracks or holes in the surface or flaking of the nacre.

Spotless – no visible scratches, pits, bumps or wrinkles in the surface
AAA Grade  at least 95% clear of surface blemishes
AA Grade at least 75% clear of surface blemishes
A Grade less than 75% clear of surface blemishes

Pearlicity uses only Grade AA and above in our jewelry.

Blemishes


The inclusions in an Emerald are known in French as “les jardins”, or “the gardens”, and each one is totally unique – a built-in identification system of sorts actually – and pearls are just like that! 

Pearls are what’s known as ‘organic gemstones’. They are the creations from a biological process (the others being coral, amber, jet and ivory), and as such will feature growth characteristics … kind of like Mother Nature’s fingerprints on her creations. So in this section we’re going to learn to tell what a blemish is, and what it is not.

Common pearl blemishes include:

A: Dents/Divots Medium to large indentations in the nacre. These can be deep or shallow, match the body color of the pearl, or be a brownish/greyish color.
B: Score Marks Scoring is usually light, pencil thin (or slimmer) lines in the nacre. The majority of the time, these marks are colorless and usually not noticeable.
C: Bulleting/Mottling A light plating pattern formed on the surface of the pearl while the pearl is formed inside its host oyster. Mottling is not considered an inclusion, as it is actually indicative of thick nacre layers and does not count against the pearls A-AAA grade.
D: Knobs/Tips These are a growth characteristics, and not necessarily determined to be inclusions. These extrusions form on the end of a baroque-shaped pearl, and can be long or short, bubble-like or pointed. These knobs and tips do not usually affect the durability of
the pearl as long as they are not chipped. These features can add touches of unique, artistic flair to a baroque strand of pearls.
E: Pin pricks Very small indentations in the nacre. These can be small, individual marks, or grouped together to create a larger area of surface blemishing. Pin prick inclusions do not affect the long-term durability of the pearl, and are colorless or match the pearl’s body color.
F: Circles  Circling is also another growth characteristic of baroque pearls, with concentric rings running around the circumference of the pearls. They can be very subtle, or grouped together heavily, and impart a one-of- a-kind artistic look to the pearls.


Shape


Shapes range in descending order of value from round to semi-round, from off-round to oval and from drop to baroque. It's important to understand that in pearl industry lingo, generally the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or free-form. The aforementioned shapes usually occur in Japanese akoya cultured pearls as well as Tahitian, South Sea and freshwater pearls.


Round is the most difficult shape to culture, making it the rarest cultured pearl shape and—if all other factors are equal—also generally the most valuable. There are exceptions, though. Well-formed pear, oval, or baroque (irregularly shaped) cultured pearls are also prized.
Pearlicity also offers unique “coin” shaped pearls in our jewelry.


Size


Size is measured perpendicular to the drilled hole through the pearl.


Color


Natural and cultured pearls occur in a broad range of hues. There are warm hues like yellow, orange, and pink, and cool hues like blue, green, and violet. Pearls have a wide range of tone from light to dark. Pearl colors tend to be muted, with a soft, subtle quality. Lilac pearls are all natural color and are limited in quantity. Only a small percentage of the fresh water pearls harvested have lilac pearls among them; about 1 in 80 pearls. Their tone varies quite widely.


Pearl color can have three components. Bodycolor is the pearl’s dominant overall color. Overtone is one or more translucent colors that lie over a pearl’s bodycolor. And orient is a shimmer of iridescent rainbow colors on or just below a pearl’s surface. All pearls display bodycolor, but only some show overtone, orient, or both.

Pearlicity carefully chooses natural pearl colors for our jewelry. We also use irradiation and permanent dyes to create unique pearl colors. The source of the pearl color is provided in every jewelry description. You can be confident, with Pearlicity, that any addition of color to a natural pearl will be permanent and beautiful for generations.


Matching


Matching efers to pairs or strands, and addresses uniformity of color, luster, shape, spotting and graduation. If colors are intentionally mixed, it refers to the attractiveness of the combination. Even in ‘uniform’strands, there will be gradation in size from the center pearl to those at the ends. Each pearl in a strand has been hand-selected to be placed between its neighbor on each side, and there should be no noticeable difference between pearls that are side-by- side.

At Pearlicity we may mix colors, shapes, and sizes for unique effects, but for all our pearl strands, earrings, or other multiple-pearl jewelry, the pearls match in all the quality factors.

Stringing and Hand Knotting

All Pearlicity jewelry is hand strung and hand knotted. We ensure that all knots seat snugly at the side of pearl - in a way that is tight or close- fitting and secure; yet ensures the necklace flows well when worn.


Jewelry Clasps

We use the highest quality clasps that are specifically chosen to compliment the jewelry piece, remain securely in place but most importantly allow you to easily put the piece on and take it off, even with long or manicured nails or stiff fingers.

Spring Ring Clasp

Our large spring ring clasp offers a larger lever than most jewelry. Just pull back on the small lever and the spring will compress, leaving an opening so you can slide a the ring inside. Releasing the lever causes the clasp to close automatically, firmly locking the chain in place. This type of clasp is very versatile and very secure. Unlike most spring clasps, you can fasten this with ease, even behind your neck.

 


Toggle Clasps
Our toggle clasp is composed of two very different pieces; one end is a long bar or "T" shape while the other is an open circle shape. The bar slips through the center of the shape and locks in place. You can easily connect the toggle clasp with one hand on our bracelets.

 


Fish Hook Clasps
We searched for a long time to find a fish hook clasp of affordable quality for Pearlicity. You will typically find this clasp on the most expensive jewelry pieces as it combines ease of attachment with extreme security and a delicate look. One end of the clasp is a metal hook, while the other is an oval shaped box. The hook fastens into a hidden spot inside the box and then locks when you push into the box. Squeezing the sides of the box releases the lock and you can easily unhook the clasp to remove.


Jewelry Quality


Every Pearlicity jewelry piece is inspected for the quality of pearls, hand stringing, clasp quality and packaging at least 3 times before it is shipped to you. If you are unhappy, for any reason, with your purchase, you can send it back to us for a full refund.