Pearls were once very rare and accordingly expensive, but the advent of the cultured pearl has made pearl jewelry and pearl necklaces more affordable. A natural pearl develops when an outside agent enters the shell of an oyster or mollusk. The oyster or mollusk generates nacre several times over, surrounding the irritant until a shiny pearl is born. As pearls became coveted by for their use in jewelry and necklaces, pearl farmers began producing cultured pearls. Creating a cultured pearl involves deliberately adding an outside agent to the inside shell of an oyster in order to generate a new pearl. Naturally occurring, freshwater pearl necklaces are still available and are often more costly than cultured pearl necklaces.
Whether you are shopping for cultured pearl necklaces, freshwater pearl necklaces, or even another type of pearl jewelry, it’s important to pay attention to the luster of the pearls. Look for a deep luster and brilliant radiance. Nearly transparent nacre provides the deepest luster and the most brilliant radiance in a pearl. A pearl of higher quality will reflect light more brilliantly.
The dominant color of a pearl comes from its outside shell as well as the pearl’s inner color or overtones of deeply reflected light. Light-colored pearl necklaces are available with shades of white, cream and gold pearls. As a general rule, pearl jewelry with pearls of white with pink or silver overtones is generally the most desirable and valuable. Of black pearls, the most sought after are black pearls with overtones of green or blue. Some pearl necklaces mix pearl colors and some contain closely matching pearls; the choice is up to you.
The most sought-after pearls are perfectly round with a smooth surface. A pearl with surface imperfections that prevent it from being perfectly round is considered to be of lower quality.
Pearls usually are judged according to four grades: A, AA, AAA, and AAA+. A pearl rated AAA or AAA+ is of the highest quality; this pearl must have high luster and a smooth, clean surface.
The matching of pearls is important when it comes to pearl necklaces. In this context, pearl matching refers to how similar the individual pearls in the necklace are to one another. This similarity can be in terms of pearl color, size, and shape. Because it is very difficult to find enough pearls similar to one another to create a long strand, necklaces with pearls that are very similar to one another warrants a high price.