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  1. #1

    Default Pearls Only - AAAA Grade

    This thread is in response to JShepherd?s question about the AAAA grading system.
    https://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/sh...p?t=644&page=2
    I am starting a new thread to basically tell the whole story and to explain why I am so passionate about the subject of a universally accepted grading system:

    When I first got into the pearl business I, like all others, needed to find a supplier. I knew that working with a company based in China could have its benefits but dealing with Chinese companies can be difficult. While working on another project I became acquainted with a company that dealt with pearls and also seemed to be knowledgeable about the logistics of selling them on the Internet. I was approached by this company offering to become my supplier for pearls. The company is called Pearls Only, and they are based in Beijing, China (www.pearlsonly.com).

    I used them as my main supplier for a couple of years, until I felt that I had learned enough to venture out on my own. This process was expedited because I felt that their way of doing business was not completely ethical. In addition, consistency of stock and quality was becoming a serious problem as well as having issues with customs due to shipments being undervalued to save on custom's fees. This sometimes resulted in the customer receiving bills from the shipping carrier.

    One of my main problems with them was their grading system. They use a system they designed themselves which uses A-AAAA instead of the standard A-AAA. Later in our relationship when I questioned the grading system and how to integrate the system into our own, I was told to make it up, because that is what they do. They did not want me to use A-AAAA the same way they did because this was their invention and their marketing tool. It was their method of making their products appear to be better than other dealers, and their way of charging more. Here is an excerpt of an instant message chat concerning the grading system:

    PearlsOnly: but I just don't want my grade descriptions to just show up verbatin on the product spec
    PearlsOnly: like AAAA - Excellent
    PearlsOnly: instead if you must call it AAAA Top of the Line
    PearlsOnly: all the other sh^t - like luster, shape, etc - I made those up - so you can also
    PearlsOnly: there is no AAAA luster - if you know what I mean - that was my marketing approach
    PearlsOnly: there is no luster grade
    PearlsOnly: I invented it
    PearlsOnly: there is shape grade
    PearlsOnly: I also invented it
    PearlsOnly: there is no shape grade is what I meant to say
    PearlsOnly: the point is - the grading scales are a very powerfull marketing tool
    PearlsOnly: if everyone is just using what I did, then its just making easier for people to compare to everyones sites
    PearlsOnly: and that is not usefull for anyone
    PearlsOnly: remember the purpose of the grading scale is to give people ability to compare products ON YOUR SITE - not against someone else site
    PearlsOnly: I see the grades as an opportunity for our sites to have a unique marketing message
    PearlsOnly: and if we make them all the same - then that message becomes the same

    Needless to say, I have been on my own now for quite some time and we are doing so much better than before. Many of you on the forum have seen that I am always discussing pearl grading and actual grading scales. This is something that is very important to me, and it is certainly due to my past bad experience with Pearls Only.

    I believe that the most important thing is to educate the customer and one way to do that is to provide accurate detailed descriptions of the pearls. The best way to accomplish this is through a universally accepted grading scale so that the customer can compare our pearls to those of another company. This is why I am so vocal and passionate when this subject comes up.

  2. #2
    Administrator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Kevin Canning's Avatar
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    Ouch - thanks for the insiders take on what we all knew was going on. When will the GIA get their act together and start working on a grading system!

    The industry needs to realize that the more we educate consumers and more comfortable they are with their purchases the more they will spend. I'll be glad when the old fashioned jewelers retire and make way for the new generation that understands this concept. There are too many jewelers that base their marketing strategy on mystique and confusion - its disgusting.
    Kevin Canning
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  3. #3
    Martina P Sachsen
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    PearlsOnly: all the other sh^t - like luster, shape, etc - I made those up - so you can also
    PearlsOnly: there is no AAAA luster - if you know what I mean - that was my marketing approach
    PearlsOnly: there is no luster grade
    PearlsOnly: I invented it
    PearlsOnly: there is shape grade
    PearlsOnly: I also invented it
    PearlsOnly: there is no shape grade is what I meant to say
    PearlsOnly: the point is - the grading scales are a very powerfull marketing tool
    This is really dispicable. I have been on that webpage before and there is such a big cost increase for the 4 a grades and I was wondering about the gold pearls because they are AAA+ but I could not find the grade anywhere else. So it is nothing but a trick. That is so very dispicable to me. Thank you Angela for telling this information.

  4. #4
    Satine De La Courcel
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    Martina,

    Just look at some previous posts on various threads here and you will see how "despicable" people can be to just make a dishonest buck. One of the awesome thigns about this site. Is whay it exists is to help educate. You make a claim about pearls you need to prove its a valisd and real claim!

  5. #5
    mikehrz
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearls_by_Angela_Carol
    PearlsOnly: if everyone is just using what I did, then its just making easier for people to compare to everyones sites
    PearlsOnly: and that is not usefull for anyone
    Actually, if all retailers used the same grading system, that would be extremely "usefull" - to consumers who don't want to be ripped off. It would tend to raise problems for dishonest merchants, though.

  6. #6
    Satine De La Courcel
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikehrz
    Actually, if all retailers used the same grading system, that would be extremely "usefull" - to consumers who don't want to be ripped off. It would tend to raise problems for dishonest merchants, though.

    Note the IF there..

    there is so much gray area with pearls grading it is a bad thing! It willtake a lot to create something like this then how do you go about those who "fix up" pearls by Buffing and polishing them to get a better grade? I am interested to see if all teh other possible kinks teh professionals here may see can get worked out and how does one convince others to use one system??? ow did they do it with Diaminds?? and From waht I have heard ther is still agreat degree of variance with their system as well.. what one says is a SI can be graded at another for a I2 at another jeweler...and colored Diamonds are given leeway becase the "color" Conary yellow, Blue, Purple, Pink etc.... is brilliant that is what the consumer wants.... how does one combat those??? how strict do you want to be??? What about natural pearls vs cultured? how does the type CFW, NFW, Conch, SSP etc relate to the system???? ther is about a million exceptions and possibilities I can thnk of for exceptions..... I sure do not want this task.. but would like to follow it as it deveops..

    Cheers
    Ash

  7. #7

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    I agree that creating a full, comprehensive system is a daunting task. It was easier with gemstones because that is more of a "subtractive" grading system. You take the absolute best possible gem that could ever be found and cut and then step down from there. It would be difficult to approach it that way with pearls because of their nature.

    The labor involved in doing this though pales is comparison to what eventually will come of nothing is done. There is a certain amount of subjectivity in grading, but that will be present regardless and can be overcome by experience. However, subjectivity within an official grading system is one thing - subjectivity in the absence of a grading system creates a marketplace that is full of lies, deceit and meaningless grades. But the worse part is that the lies and deceit become acceptable.

    For example - take company A who has three different pearls to sell. They grade one as a AA grade, another as an AAA grade and then the third as AAAA. A customer buys the AAAA grade thinking they are getting the best pearl possible. The customer then buys from company B and finds out that the AAAA grade from company A it is actually lower grade than an AAA grade from company B. Then the customer complains. Company A can respond that the AAAA grade was the best pearl they had so they gave it the best grade. Currently, with no official grading system, they can do that.

    This is the same reason that giving just letter grades to characteristics such as Shape and Luster is meaningless. For instance:

    Overall Grade AA
    Luster AAA
    Body AA
    Shape AA
    This grading means nothing to me and should mean nothing to the customer. Shape grade AA compared to what? Right now it appears that the luster is the highest luster that you can get. It it really - or is it just the highest luster that company has? What about the AAAA luster - is there one? What if this company a year from now starts selling AAAA+ or even AAAAA (yes 5A)? What if they make a new grade called A1, A2, A3?

    It may sound funny (buying an A1 pearl), but that is exactly what is happening. Some companies are just making up the grades to confuse the customer and make their pearls seem better.

  8. #8
    Satine De La Courcel
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    It started out mening something and then it went wrong.. people statred finding loopholes.... It has never been an across teh board thign wither.. only a suggestion. I have never heard of AAAA only up to AAA and I would assume they are teh Handamma/Freshdammas being the top Quality to Judge by and go from there.... But that is me. Most consumers ai knwo ( the plane jane people ) do not really care if they are SSP Tahitiand or Freshdammas. only if they are Cultures v natural or if they have the Mikki label the "OLD staus" things still seem to stick with the "common man" Ie. its all in teh name baby.... or what is the new seasons fad this year.. that is a tall order to try to change!

    MHO

    Cheers
    Ash

  9. #9
    Susan
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    I have never heard of AAAA only up to AAA and I would assume they are the Handamma/Freshdammas being the top Quality to Judge by and go from there
    Ash

    This made me think. Jeremy and Amanda do have a grade above their AAA freshwater pearls.

    Amanda's are her 'Elite' range and Jeremy has his 'Paradise Collection'. Would these therefore be classed as AAAA freshwater pearls?

    Susan

  10. #10
    Zeide Erskine
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    Hi Susan,

    I assume they consider these the fine gem grade beyond the A rating system. According to www.mikimotoamerica.com, "Mikimoto pearls are known as hanadama" which appears to mean that all their pearls are varying degrees of hanadama which is clearly false. The Ginza store also offers "gem grade" which are the absolutely most frivolously priced range comprising cultured akoyas with sufficient nacre to exhibit orient. These are not flawless cultured pearls and none of them are white ros?. Some of them are even noticably bumpy from a distance.

    Zeide

  11. #11
    Susan
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    I assume they consider these the fine gem grade beyond the A rating system.
    Lost lost lost.

    How can you have something beyond its own grading system even if it is your own unofficial one? Surely Amanda and Jeremy do have a freshwater grading scale beyond the AAA to incorporate their premium lines and they must be regarded as AAA+ or AAAA freshwater pearls (because of the orient perhaps) by virtue of the fact that these lines actually exist?
    There is no implied criticism here just confusion. Why not just call the elite and paradise collections AAAA or AAA+ and be done with it?

    Or am I completely missing the point and it is common in the industry to have gem quality pearls outside the grading system?

    Susan - possibly showing her total ignorance.

  12. #12
    mikehrz
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    Jeremy has AAA akoya and also hanadama akoya. Only the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japan can certify hanadama, and it is a classification recognized throughout the industry. Once freshadama (Paradise collection) came into the picture, they were added above the normal AAA fw. Granted, this is a classification done solely at Pearl Paradise's discretion.

    Normal industry standards only use a AAA maximum rating. I am not certain, but I think this originated with Mikimoto, the first source of cultured akoya. Pearls Only pulled the AAAA rating idea out of their ear, or some other less sanitary area of their body, solely as a means of swindling customers.

    The A grading system is still not fully standardized, and retailer's grades are not interchangeable. However, seeing something like a AAAA rating is a clear sign of someone playing by their own rules, or simply making stuff up, in order to falsely represent their product as the best possible.

    You may notice that Pearl Paradise has pages that explain their grading system for both akoya
    http://www.pearlparadise.com/Akoya-pearl-grading.htm
    and fw
    http://www.pearlparadise.com/Freshwa...rl-grading.htm
    Nowhere on these pages do they indicate that their AAA pearls of either type are the best in the world, or even the best sold by Pearl Paradise.

    Actually, it's pretty simple: If a fw pearl meets their AAA standards, then it's AAA quality. If it exceeds their AAA standards, then they can classify it as freshadama. Somehow I doubt that you'll find many retailers whose AAA fw can compete with the freshadama. Even Pearl Paradise's AAA fw don't, which is why the new term was coined (by our very own Zeide, for anyone who wasn't aware of that).

  13. #13
    Zeide Erskine
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    Hi Susan & Mike,

    I made up the term "freshadama" as an analogy to handama. Actually, the standard on which I first judged the strand of pearls that Jeremy sent me was the Dana standard of Bahrain. However, Jeremy was comparing them to his best akoyas which are the hanadama. So I also compared them against the hanadama standard for akoyas. All sellers of akoyas rate and price their hanadama certified akoyas separately even Mikimoto. When you buy a AAA Mikimoto you do not get a hanadama certificate. That's a separate category. As such I think it is justified to keep a distinct fine-gem-grade category and market it as such.

    Still I would love to see rigorous standards established for all the lower grades, too, that could then be applied accross the board by all sellers in the industry. I have always said so. This is one of my prime reasons for being on this forum. I also want to see some true quality recognition. If that means a fine, untreated freshwater pearl will be rated higher than a bleached and dyed PPB - so be it.

    Zeide

  14. #14
    purepearls
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    To answer Susan's questions, the Hanadama and Freshwater Elite Collections are AAA grades. You will find a detailed explanation of what the Hanadama and Freshwater Elite Collections are here: http://www.purepearls.com/pure-pearl...ollection.html

    In order for Hanadama Akoya pearls to be deemed as so, they must be certified as Hanadama. There is no such universal certification for Freshwater pearls at this time, but with the new breed of Freshwater pearls being produced, it was important for us to come up with a line that compared them to the likes of the Hanadama Akoya pearls because they are very "elite".

    The problem with grading pearls as AAA+ or AAAA is that the grading scales are completely made up and it creates a false impression of higher quality pearls than other sellers' AAA pearls, when they are actually the same thing. Customers who aren't familiar with pearls and grading scales are naturally going to assume AAAA quality pearls are a higher quality pearl than AAA pearls and it gives an excuse to inflate the prices. Such practices create an illusion to the customer and we all know that illusions are never truly as they seem to appear.

  15. #15
    Satine De La Courcel
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    Quote Originally Posted by purepearls

    The problem with grading pearls as AAA+ or AAAA is that the grading scales are completely made up and it creates a false impression of higher quality pearls than other sellers' AAA pearls, when they are actually the same thing. Customers who aren't familiar with pearls and grading scales are naturally going to assume AAAA quality pearls are a higher quality pearl than AAA pearls and it gives an excuse to inflate the prices. Such practices create an illusion to the customer and we all know that illusions are never truly as they seem to appear.
    It is Great Marketing, even if False and it pays on teh my pearls are better than your pearls thigns which people are well to be honest that petty when it comes to jewelry!


    Cheers
    Ash