Freshwater Pearl Quality Grading System and History

freshwater pearl jewelry quality grading systemA brief pearl history lesson…

In the past, pearls cost more money than most people made in a lifetime, and commoners lived their whole lives without ever seeing a pearl.  Only royalty and the richest and most powerful people could ever hope to own pearl jewelry.  

In fact, pearls were so expensive; a Roman general once financed an entire military campaign by selling just one (yes I said one) of his mother’s pearl earrings (mother of year award right!). 

Pearls were still worth a fortune in the early 20th century, when the famous jeweler, Jacques Cartier, paid for his prime-location store front on New York’s Fifth Avenue with only two strands of pearls. 

But cultured pearl production changed everything, bringing the timeless beauty of lustrous pearls within reach ... for you and me!  Today, we’re the luckiest girls in history because we can own luscious and lustrous pearl jewelry, even if we’re not kings and queens. 

Now everyone can have pearls of their own ... iridescent, entrancing, wearable treasures for every occasion.  And we can proudly shower them on the people we love (even grandmothers to granddaughter, like mine did - click to read more).  

Pearls are the birthstone for people born in June or under the astrological sign of Gemini.  But they can make magic for anyone.  Some people believe that pearls have a purifying energy ... that wearing them promotes personal integrity, honesty, and loyalty.  Pearls are also considered a desirable gift for a couple’s 3rd, 12th, 30th and 80th wedding anniversary.

No matter why you crave the beauty of pearls, you don't have to wait another day to own one of nature’s most affordable and timeless treasures.  But you can take a few moments to become a smart jewelry shopper.  

The Freshwater Pearl Grading System :

The pearl grading system rates the quality of pearls on a scale from AAA to A, with AAA being the highest grade. These grades officially apply to freshwater and Akoya pearls, but many South Sea and Tahitian pearl merchants use them, too

  • AAA : Simply, the best!  The highest-quality pearl you can buy, AAA pearls are virtually flawless. Their surface has a superior luster that’s at least 95% free from defects of any kind. 

  • AA : Almost as fine as AAA… AA grade pearls have a surface with very high luster that’s at least 75% free from defects.

  • A : The lowest grade pearl (that’s still considered jewelry-grade) has a lower luster and/or defects blemishing more than 25% of the surface.  Some A grade pearls can still make gorgeous pieces of jewelry, that can mean a lovely purchase for a smart price.

Examples of a "defect" on a freshwater pearl are:

  • "Pitting" indents from when the pearl was forming
  • UN-uniformed colorization / luster
  • Indents such as "rings" or "butts"
  • Imperfections from surface scratches.

Now you are armed to shop with confidence and spot the high and low quality pearls like a pro. Go for quality not quantity, your wallet + closet will thank you later.

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