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
How to Determine the Pearl's Nacre Quality?
Akoya Pearls
Freshwater Pearls
Tahitian Pearls
South Sea Pearls

 

 

How are Pearls Graded?

Only superior quality pearl merchandise in the way of distinctive cultured fine pearl jewelry should be affordable to everyone. The following pages will describe to you how to understand the differences in pearl quality so you can be the judge. Don’t settle for less… only the best will do.

Most serious pearl retailers will supply four types of pearls:

As the world becomes smaller and smaller through the internet, buying opportunities like this will become much more prevalent with all types of products. Eliminating a series of brokers and traders wipes out all unnecessary levels of profit so the consumer gains through the power of direct purchasing via direct marketing.


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.

How to Determine the Pearl's Nacre Quality?

The thickness and quality of the nacre, other than having a direct effect on the luster, could be the difference between a clean pearl and a blemished pearl. When one looks for pearl jewelry, the nacre thickness is often an issue. The thicker the nacre, the more lustrous the pearl appears and the more durable the pearl will be. Pearls with thick nacre can last decases while maintaining an attractive appearance. The quality of a pearl's nacre can be classified in three ways:

To check the nacre quality of pearl necklaces hold the strand with both hands in an area of good natural lighting and slowly rotate the strand looking for the factors mentioned above.

Defining the Difference Between A, AA and AAA Pearls

At Pearl Distributors we strive to make your pearl jewelry purchase as easy as possible. To this end, we use a clear (Mikimoto adopted) yet simple Grading System based on the following information:

Body Surface Appearance - Defined by the visual appearance of blemishes and imperfections on the surface of the pearl. We use a percentage basis.
The Pearl Shape - A perfect spherical pearl will have the highest grading value while slight off-round imperfections will have a lower grading.
Amount of Luster - A truly lustrous pearl surface will have a high reflective quality and will be graded accordingly.

Pearl Distributors offers a wide selection of colors, sizes and grades of freshwater and saltwater cultured pearls. The size of the pearls can range from a 6 mm size, to a more traditional size of 7 to 8mm, to a larger, more fashionable size up to 15 to 16mm. Our largest 15mm plus sized Tahitian pearls truly say "Wow" and offer that extra glitz and glamour for those special occasions. Let’s not forget our large beautiful Pendant Pearls that are over 10mm in size.

Grade A

Although Pearl Distributors do not carry this low of a grade of pearl we will point out that an “A” Grade will have fair Luster with some irregularity in the spherical shape. As the marks on the surface of the pearl are noticeable but small, these can be seen even with the untrained eye. This lower grade value keeps the price at a reasonable cost. It should be pointed out that most traditional Jewelry retailers do not advertise the grade of the pearls they sell. Therefore, you may be looking at an “A” grade pearl. You may want to do some research before committing to such a purchase.

Grade AA and AA+

These grades (AA and AA+) of pearls are quite superior to the Grade A pearl because the shape will be much closer to a spherical shape while the luster is still excellent. Any imperfections on the surface of the pearl will be insignificant, which makes this quality of pearl one of our most popular. Our AA+ Pearls come from the top 5% of the annual pearl harvest. They are 90% clean or blemish free with a near round shape and a luster of at least AA+ to the highest of AAA.

Grade AAA

The AAA grade pearl has a brilliant shine and superior luster and orient when compared to our grade AA+ pearls. The shape of the pearl is near perfection as they are visibly round with the matching of pearls in pearl necklaces or bracelets that are extremely consistent. The near lack of surface imperfections (95% inclusion free) is barely noticeable even in the lighter colors and white pearls. These are selected from the top 1% of the annual harvest. Our AAA Pearls are simply the very best on the Market. Guaranteed!

Don't be Fooled!

Don’t be fooled by expensive claims like “Collectors Quality”, ” AAA+ or even “AAAA” as these are simple marketing techniques used to artificially inflate prices. Look for Grading systems that follow the established “Mikimoto” Grading System. If in doubt purchase a strand from Pearl Distributors and one from our competition for comparison purposes. Simply return the inferior one within the guarantee period. We are so convinced that our quality is superior that we regularly promote this bold practice. You will not be disappointed… you have our word on it!


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

Gem Grade:

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

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

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