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Tahitian Pearls Grading Guide

tahitian pearls grading guide

Ready to take your Tahitian pearl knowledge to the next level? We’re here to help you explore these magnificent pearls. Stick with us for a look at how jewelry experts study and grade Tahitian beauties. You’ll soon understand these particular grading basics.

Why Are Tahitian Pearls So Special?

Many around the world uphold Tahitian pearls for their remarkable overtones. Atop their soft to deep grey bodies (often described as “black”) rest charming overtones of peacock, pistachio, cherry, chocolate, silver, copper, etc. Tahitian pearls are our peculiar midnight rainbows. They’re a touch subtler in the luster department, which also makes them unique. Their soft metallic and satiny luster render them the dark, quiet, and mysterious option. It’s as if Tahitians possess some sort of subdued yet mighty power over cultured pearl lovers and newcomers alike.

An Undeniable Beauty

How do these tender yet intense worlds form? Tahitian pearls are composed of three layers: the central bead nucleus and the alternating layers of nacre and natural glue called “conchiolin.” The bead nucleus is inserted into its host oyster, and over two to three years, a deliciously rich Tahitian pearl is born. The signature Tahitian grey results from dark pigments in the conchiolin.

Tahitian Pearl Grades

When examined, which outstanding characteristics qualify a Tahitian pearl or strand for specific grades? It’s why we’re here, so let’s explore further. Essentially, there are 7 factors to observe when it comes to grading pearls: size, luster, shape, color, surface, nacre quality, and matching.

Tahitian Pearls: AAA

With AAA Tahitian pearls, you’re getting the stunners. The strands are top-shelf, and anyone who beholds them knows it immediately. The satiny silver and steely pearls are pretty, but those AAA-quality, lustrous blue and green hues are absolutely mesmerizing and unforgettable.

  • Matching: minimal variation in color, overtone, luster, shape, and size
  • Appearance: mostly clean to the eye
  • Blemish Rate: bears 10% or less on each pearl surface (a single deep blemish granted)
  • Luster: distinct and mildly metallic
  • Light Test: reflected light interprets as precise with some blurring
  • Shape: ideally spherical or symmetrical
  • The Fine Line: actual nacre thickness is 0.8mm or more (*By law, Tahitian pearls’ nacre must be 0.8mm or higher to be eligible for export.)

Tahitian Pearls: AA+

AA+ Tahitian pearls rest more on the satin side, and you’ll notice more blemishes and even growths, which ironically may appeal to the mature pearl enthusiast or eccentric individual. To the casual observer, the strands may interpret less reflective, but shape appears to sustain as round to the eye. You’ll encounter more silver, grey, and black with the AA+ grade.

  • Matching: a little variation in color, overtone, luster, shape, and size
  • Blemish Rate: bears 20% or less on the pearl surface (a couple of deep blemishes granted)
  • Luster: distinct and boasting fair reflection rate
  • Light Test: reflected light interprets as blurred
  • Mirror Test: facial features may not be easily observed and defined in every pearl’s surface
  • Shape: minimal departure from perfectly spherical or symmetrical granted
  • The Fine Line: actual nacre thickness is 0.8mm or more (*By law, Tahitian pearls’ nacre must be 0.8mm or higher to be eligible for export.)


When it comes to blemishes and growths on Tahitian pearls, remember that these are the additions of Mother Nature herself. We’re quick to seek out perfection, but a pearl’s markings are a part of its face, its personality, and its one-of-a-kind status.

The blemishes ensure that your pearls aren’t man-made. You’re showing off authentic strands that sing with sultry voices all their own. We always encourage our customers to get up close and personal with their pearls. Know their growths and deep blemishes. When you look at those, you’re looking into time itself. You’re witnessing experience, science, and history preserved in the markings. Perhaps you even recognize yourself in the gems and feel connected to them somehow.

Honestly, most of Tahitian pearl blemishes blend with the overall tone or bear no color at all. They’re easily missed by casual observers who normally admire the total effect of the “black pearls.” No matter the imperfections, Tahitians make an entrance. There’s no denying their pure and natural loveliness.

Here’s a detailed list of common blemishes and growths you’ll find on Tahitian pearls:

1. Uneven Accumulation

It’s not uncommon to discover a crystalline nacre build-up in certain areas. You’ll note bumpy sections that denote some sort of disturbance in the nacre building process.

2. Mottling

This blemish doesn’t even count against the pearl in grading. Basically, it appears as if a small hammer has tapped into the surface of the thick nacre.

3. Circling

Sometimes, you’ll hear these marks referred to as the “circles of love.” Pearls bearing circling possess an extremely unique appearance with the singular or grouped rings. Other blemishes may occur within the rings themselves, but gorgeous and varying colors are also likely.

4. Pinpricks

These blemishes appear as needle points on the surface of pearls. They may stand alone or in a small pack, the latter often giving the pearl a “gnawed” look.

5. Pits

Pits are known as deep blemishes. If you notice a tiny crater or an extreme pinprick, you’re observing a pit. These can lead to chipping and thus affect the pearl’s grading.

6. Grooves

Perhaps this is the most common blemish when it comes to Tahitian pearls. A groove is a line or a trail. It appears as a channel in the pearl, and it can be either shallow or deep. The shallow ones are normally subtle, and they quickly begin to vanish as they extend.

7. Knobs

Knobs look like bubbles that appear at the ends of pearls. Often, they render “baroque” pearls, and they lead to fine, interesting jewelry pieces. Durability is at stake, however, if there is any chipping or cracking.

8. Tips

Tips are quite similar to knobs. These slimmer growths may be round or pointy on the ends of pearls. Once again, durability is at stake if there is any chipping or cracking.



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