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  1. #1

    Default Grade variation within a strand

    I've taken a look through several of the threads about grading on the forum. However, I don't think my question has been addressed...though my search mojo may have missed it. How much does quality vary within a strand? If one of the reputable sellers that is part of this forum, lists a grade is this the maximum grade or the minimum grade of pearls within the strand? Obviously, pearl sellers vary substantially on grading philosophy (what makes an AA/AAA ect), but is there an industry norm how the seller's subjective classification applies to a strand of variable quality?

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    Member DaveTT's Avatar
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    The AAA-A System
    This system grades pearls on a scale from AAA to A, with AAA being the highest grade. This grading scale is common to freshwater and akoya pearls only, but is accepted by many with South Sea and Tahitian pearls as well:
    AAA:The highest-quality pearl, virtually flawless. The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 95% of the surface will be free from any type of defect.
    AA: The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 75% of the surface will be free from any type of defect.
    A: This is the lowest jewelry-grade pearl, with a lower luster and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects. In many cases, if the pearl is being mounted into a piece of jewelry, it can be mounted so that the defects are hidden -- thus providing a lovely jewelry piece at a lower price.

    Intermediate Grades And Pearl Grading For Stands
    Some reputable sellers may also use intermediate grades for the pearls - those pearls that do not fall in a category but are between two - such as A+ and AA+. Obviously, these grading categories are quite broad and leave room for interpretation and individual judgment. Also note that in multi-pearl pieces such as strands, necklaces, bracelets, etc., every one of the individual pearls may not absolutely meet the indicated grade level. For example, a strand referred to as "AAA" must have most of its pearls as AAA pearls. However, a few pearls could have slightly lower luster or a tiny bit more surface defects. This is because matching is also a primary consideration in multi-pearl jewelry, sometimes even overriding a very strict grading of each individual pearl.
    Happy and Honest

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    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    There usually isn't that much variation between the pearls on a strand, if you are sourcing from a decent wholealer. I do remember Jeremy, Hisano and I being driven nuts a couple of septs ago by the next to the end pearls on many strands which were of a whole grade lower.
    Personally I would grade to the lower pearls, unless there was just one duff one on a whole strand, and then point out that one pearl in my product description. That's when selling loose pearls. Of course in making up necklaces you would switch out any duff pearls and substitute the proper grade pearls.

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    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    This is an interesting question I haven't seen discussed before.

    Aren't strands sorted and matched, then strung, unfinished, at the factories? And then the vendor grades them according to his standards? That is what I thought.

    I would think the grade would reflect the overall strand but that no pearls in the strand would fall below the overall grade.

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    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    That's pretty much it. But some vendors can't resist sneaking in the odd duff pearl. J and H will remember!
    Some strands are better graded and better matched than others. As Jeremy said in another recent post..sometimes you will buy by weight, sometimes select strands and sometimes just grab the best looking hanks overall. Buying by weight is much cheaper- allowing us to in turn have better retail prices, but you are accepting that some duff pearls will be in there.
    So, general answer to the OP question. Loose pearl strands may have some variation in quality in a single strand, but finished jewellery never should

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    Hi, Naria -

    The short answer is that there is no universally agreed-upon objective grading system for pearls. In fact, only diamonds have such systems.

    A/AA/AAA grading is specific to an individual brand and has no exact carry-over. One person's AAA could be another's B and someone else's #7.

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    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    But that wasn't the question.

    Quoting the OP, "How much does quality vary within a strand?" and the OP notes that "Obviously, pearl sellers vary substantially on grading philosophy (what makes an AA/AAA ect)..."

    In other words, however the individual seller defines AA (or AAA, or whatever grade), will all the pearls in a given strand be consistently that grade? Might some pearls in that strand be lower quality than the stated grade of the entire strand?

    So far Wendy has said that there while unfinished (i.e. temporarily strung) strands may have a pearl or two that are lower quality than the rest of the pearls in the strand, finished strands should not have any pearls in them that are lower quality than the stated grade of the strand as a whole (regardless of how the seller defines the grade.)

    Do you agree, Mary? (Welcome to Pearl-Guide, by the way! I see that was your first post; hopefully there will be many more.)
    Last edited by Pearl Dreams; 11-27-2012 at 08:56 PM.

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    Pearl quality should not vary noticeably within a strand. Consistency is very important and takes years for pearl graders to master. Noticeable inconsistency in a strand is not acceptable, unless dealing with exceptionally rare or large pearls.

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    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    There will invariably be some differences in the pearls within a single strand - especially in larger, more expensive strands. Most of the time when we mix a grade, it is going to be within the South Sea and Tahitian. Unless the strand is gem, there will always be some pearls that have more surface inclusions than others. It's easy to simply blanket everything you sell with a AAA grade and clean as some sellers do (even when they have marks and inclusions), but they aren't actually grading their pearls, they're selling them.

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    Member DaveTT's Avatar
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    Hmm, well i think that some pearl jewelry sellers, for example ( say that a strand is AAA, and im sure there is 1 or 2 that are AA+ in that strand ).
    Maybe because the seller dident find X AAA pearls, or he just want to make a little more $$$, or maybe some sellers just dont have the experience / skill to really understand the difference in a singel AAA and AA+.
    But im sure that most sellers really try to have all pearls AAA, in a strand if they say its a AAA strand.
    Happy and Honest

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    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd View Post
    ...
    It's easy to simply blanket everything you sell with a AAA grade and clean as some sellers do (even when they have marks and inclusions), but they aren't actually grading their pearls, they're selling them.
    An important distinction for us to be aware of, as buyers. A rose by any other name....

    The pearls themselves fall into a continuum of quality, the "grades" being an artificial (but useful) concept that enables sellers to draw the lines somewhere for the purpose of pricing-- necessary for online selling. I suppose the grades are a sort of shorthand for what qualities the buyer can expect to see in a pearl, or a strand, but even so there will be variations from strand to strand even within a grade.

    If we buyers could see the strands in person, we would choose with our eyes and there would be less need for designations of AAA, AA or A, but buying as we do online, we rely instead on photos and on "grades" to ensure that we get pearls that are close to the quality we were aiming at.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for all of the thoughts. I've been thinking about purchasing a first Tahitian strand, but keep noticing distinctly different qualities in the same strands. As a buyer, I would rather have uniform strands of lower quality and higher quality than these mixed strands. The lower quality would allow the bargain consumer enter the market, while uniform higher quality always has a market. If you felt that a pearl was a duff, would you speak with your seller about this? If so, how would you go about it?

  13. #13

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    I find that with SSP strands, a lot of sellers like to hide the less attractive pearls at the back where the clasp will go, simply because they think no one will really notice them. Then again, the quality should not differ so much that you can obviously tell that some pearls are so inferior compared to others, lustre, colour and surface cleanliness wise. A strand is supposed to be matched as well as possible, and though absolutely matching colours would be hard with SSPs with all the different overtones, the lustre and surface cleanliness cannot be too different.
    Valerene Chin
    Serenity Pearls
    Founder & Co-owner
    www.serenitypearls.com

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    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    Hi Naria
    welcome
    Are you considering a strand or a made necklace? The distinction is very important - as I said earlier, a strand (that is a temporary strand, also known as loose pearls - as itcomes to the retailer from the whlesaler and/or pearl factory) may have some grade variation
    A finished necklace never should. It's our job as finished jeweller sellers to swap in and out pearls to achieve all the same grade and matched pearls (always assuming that is what the buyer wants of course)

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naria View Post
    Thanks for all of the thoughts. I've been thinking about purchasing a first Tahitian strand, but keep noticing distinctly different qualities in the same strands. As a buyer, I would rather have uniform strands of lower quality and higher quality than these mixed strands. The lower quality would allow the bargain consumer enter the market, while uniform higher quality always has a market. If you felt that a pearl was a duff, would you speak with your seller about this? If so, how would you go about it?
    If it is a necklace, I would directly ask the seller if they could swap the duff pearls out with better ones. They should understand why you want those pearls out of your necklace.
    Valerene Chin
    Serenity Pearls
    Founder & Co-owner
    www.serenitypearls.com

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