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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.
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.
|Shape||Near round||Near round||Round|
|Surface||Surface||Surface||> 90% clean|
|Nacre||< 75% clean||< 75% clean||0.5+ mm|
|Matching||0.25 - 0.35 mm||0.25 - 0.35 mm||Very good|
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 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.
Spotless – no visible scratches, pits, bumps or wrinkles in the surface
AA Grade – at least 95% clear of surface blemishes
A Grade – Reflections are weak and blurred
Pearlicity uses only Grade AA and above in our jewelry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.