Pearl Grading

Pearl Grading

Pearl Grading is a standard by which jewelers grade their jewelry. It’s important to be aware that not all pearl companies use the same standards for grading their pearls, so while they may use the AAA – A system, the AAA pearls of one company may only be equivalent to another company’s AA pearls.

Use the links below to navigate this article:
Pearl Grading Value
Akoya Pearls
Freshwater Pearls
Tahitian Pearls
South Sea Pearls

Pearl Grading is based on 7 Factors

  1. Luster: The number one factor to pay attention to. A pearl’s luster refers to the rate of reflection on a pearl’s surface, how crisp and detailed it is. Pearls without luster will end up looking like chalky beads. Remember that the brighter, sharper and more reflective the pearl is, the more value it has.
  2. Shape: Generally, the rounder the pearl, the more precious it is. Baroques are the only exception, the off-round droplet shaped pearls are graded on symmetry.
  3. Color: Pearls offer an astonishing array of colors from the classic whites to jet black, lavender, pink, peach, chocolate and even blue. Naturally colored pearls are graded on their color’s depth and saturation, with certain overtones more valuable than others.
  4. Surface Blemish: While there’s no such thing as a “flawless” pearl, ones that have less pin-pricks, scaring, chalky spots or wrinkles are considered more valuable than ones with multiple blemishes.
  5. Size: This is probably one of the most easily graded factor, the bigger the pearl the more value it has.
  6. Natural or Cultured: When pearls are “cultured”, it means that humans had a hand at cultivating the pearl; whereas, wild and natural pearls from the ocean are very rare and are priced at a premium.
  7. Matching: This takes the whole jewelry piece into consideration and how well the pearls are matched with each other. Keeping the 7 Factors in mind, we’ll explore the grading information for each different pearl type sold and followed by Pearl Distributors.

Akoya Pearls

While Akoya pearls have grading between A to Hanadama, Pearl Distributors only carries AA+ to Hanadama.

AA+:
Surface Quality: A minimum of 90% of the pearl surface is clean.
Nacre thickness: Visibly thick nacre
Luster: Good to excellent
Reflections: Good to sharp reflections
Matching: Good to Excellent

AAA
Surface Quality: A minimum of 95% of the pearl surface is clean
Nacre thickness: Visibly thick nacre
Luster: Excellent
Reflections: Sharp to very sharp reflections
Matching: Excellent

Hanadama
Surface Quality: Minimal to no visible surface irregularities
Nacre thickness: Nacre thickness is over .4mm on any side, as confirmed by optical fibre
Luster: Excellent to outstanding
Reflections: Very sharp reflections
Matching: Excellent

Note: Pearl Distributors never uses exaggerated grades such as AAAA or AAA+, which are not industry-wide accepted standards. We use the Mikimoto grading system of AAA, AA+. Hanadama pearls are equivalent to Mikimoto AAA pearls. Each Hanadama pearl is selected among outstanding AAA pearls and have been tested and certified by the Pearl Science Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan. Each Hanadama strand has its own numbered certificate.

Freshwater Pearls

While Freshwater pearls have grading between A to Freshwater Gem, Pearl Distributors only carries AA+ to Gem.

AA+:
Surface Quality: 90% Clean
Luster: Good to excellent
Shape: Near round
Rarity: Top 5% of pearls harvested
Matching: Excellent to Good

AAA:
Surface Quality: 95% clean
Luster: Very good to excellent
Shape: Visibly round
Rarity: Top 5% of pearls harvested
Matching: Excellent

Freshwater Gem:
Surface Quality: 98% Clean
Luster: Excellent with some visible orient
Shape: Round to visible round
Rarity: Top 0.1% of pearls harvested
Matching: Excellent

Note: Freshwater Gem Grade necklaces are hand made from loose AAA pearls that are selected as outstanding and kept aside for use in very high quality earrings and pendants. We drill them themselves to make this line. They are not bought as bulk necklace strands.

Tahitian Pearls

While Tahitian pearls have grading between A to Gem, Pearl Distributors only carries AA to Gem.

AA:
Surface Quality: Minimum 70% clean, moderate amount of light surface irregularities. One to two deep inclusions allowed.
Luster: Good to high luster with light sources reflected with blurred edges and reflection of head or hand indistinct.
Matching: Very good

AA+:
Surface Quality: Minimum 80% clean. Light surface irregularities limited to less than 20% of the surface. One to two deep inclusions allowed per 18” strand.
Luster: High to very high luster with light sources reflected with blurred edges and reflection of head or hand of viewer seen but slightly blurred.
Matching: Very good

AAA:
Surface Quality: Minimum 90% clean. Very light surface irregularities not showing on more than 10% of the surface. Most of these will disappear into the drill hole. Only one deep inclusion allowed per 18” strand.
Luster: Excellent luster with sharp reflection of light sources and head or hand of viewer.
Matching: Excellent

Gem:
Surface Quality: No visible flaws
Luster: Excellent, almost metallic with sharp reflection of both light sources and head or hand of viewer.
Matching: Excellent

Note: All Tahitian pearls have a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8mm. Pearls with thinner nacre are deemed unsuitable for export and destroyed.

South Sea Pearls:

While South Sea pearls have grading between A to Gem, Pearl Distributors only carries AA to Gem.

AA:
Surface Quality: Minimum 70% clean. Light surface flaws but only one to two deep inclusions.
Luster: Good luster, with light sources dimly reflected and blurred.
Matching: Very good

AA+:
Surface Quality: Minimum 80% clean. Only one to two deep inclusions allowed per 18” strand.
Luster: High to very high luster, with light sources reflected but with blurred edges
Matching: Very good to excellent

AAA:
Surface Quality: Minimum 90% clean. Most light imperfections will disappear into drill hole. Only one deep inclusion allowed per 18” strand.
Luster: High to excellent luster, with light sources clearly reflected but may have lightly blurred edges.
Matching: Excellent

Gem:
Surface Quality: No visible flaws
Luster: Excellent luster, with light sources clearly reflected
Matching: Excellent

Note: South Sea pearls have a satinier luster than some other pearls and are not as reflective.