Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 54
  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    25

    Default What makes a freshwater higher than AAA?

    First off, let me say I love this site. I have always loved pearls, but have only invested modestly because I didn't have a good source for pearls. The ones I could find were either poor quality, obviously overpriced, or a combination of the two. Now that I have found this site and the wonderful online merchants who are members, I feel that my pearl-buying glory days have begun. There is something about pearls that just fascinates me, and my wife shares my enthusiasm. Finally I am poised to release her from her second rate strands! So far I have bought only for my wife because I haven't figured out how to integrate them into a man's wardrobe yet. Perhaps cufflinks? We'll see.

    But to the question: I have noticed that some sites are listing freshwater pearls that are higher than AAA grade, most notably the freshadamas. I understand there is not a standard grading for these types of pearls. What makes them so special? How would I recognize Freshadamas (for example) from a strand of AAA pearls? Is this something that an admitted pearl novice would notice right away?

    I love the idea of solid freshwater pearls and I want to buy the best, but on the other hand I don't to overbuy on quality at the expense of quantity and size (funds are not unlimited). I never really understood or liked the metallic glaze-like sheen on some of the high end pearls I have seen to date, and from reading this forum I have learned these were probably treated akoyas and not my cup of tea (although the dramatic size did appeal to me).

    Do higher grade pearls make a difference mainly to collectors, or is it something that will be appreciated by non experts just in daily wear?

    Is it something that can be explained in words and pictures, or do I just have to bite the bullet and buy some?

    I want to start off with a standard sized set of necklace with bracelet and earrings, just to get her used to quality pearls, before I start having real fun buying her pearl gifts.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Posts
    5,795

    Default

    The difference actually comes from the pearl separation on a farm or factory level in producing areas such as Zhuji China. When a wholesaler or retailer purchases pearls from a source supplier they are separated into different quality grades. They are all what is referred to as 'necklace qualities'. These are pearls that are deemed high enough quality to be drilled and matched into strands. Out of the 'necklace quality' strands, you have many different levels. The highest level, which many of us refer to as AAA, is the highest grade 'necklace quality'. These pearls will be visible round to the naked eye, have little to no blemishing, and have very good luster. This is not a quality that one often sees when shopping for freshwater pearl jewelry. Most are accustomed to level 3-4 and below. Markedly off round, moderately blemished, and low luster is the most recognizable freshwater quality on the market.

    To obtain a grade higher than AAA necklace quality you have to go one step further into the quality grading. This is a product known as 'loose pearl' grade. This grade of pearl has been intentionally separated from all other grades before any processing has been completed. This quality is not drilled - it is sold as loose. It is not uncommon to see this grade in a high-end pendant or pair of earrings, but it is not sold in necklace form simply because the supplier can sell each pearl individually for a much higher margin on a 'selection' basis.

    In order to compose a higher grade strand such as a 'freshadama', the loose pearl grade is used. This is not really as easy as it sounds, either. In order to purchase the loose pearls by selection, the cost of production would be overwhelming. BUT, if the buyer is able to buy in large volume, the cost can be limited. This entails purchasing the producers entire loose pearl inventory on the basis of weight, without individual selection. The buyer must then have the means to process the unfinished goods into necklace form. Also, even more importantly, the buyer must have the means to sell a large amount of inventory - it really is a volume game. If we were to create freshadama based on selection from loose lots, in order to only make a few strands (50-100 necklaces), the cost of production would be more than double our current selling price. Pearl lovers 'in the know' realize this, and that is what makes them such a tremendous deal.

  3. #3
    Pearl Maven Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    near Tucson AZ
    Posts
    8,827

    Default

    Hi
    I enjoyed your letter.

    To my understanding, the top grade in cultured freshwater pearls is a AAA. Thre is a specific mimimal requirement to be grade AAA such as roundness, luster, and % of blemishes on the surface. Each grade is part of the continuum of pearl excellence. A is the lowest jewelry grade. Everything below an A is commercial grade. Grade A requires a certain level of roundness and the pearls might be visably a little off round, A certain amount of luster is required, though that is difficult to quantify. There must be below a certain % of surface blemishes. AA is better; more round with better skins. AAA grade pearls are the top small percent of the harvest, though some these will be closer to the AA end of the spectrum. At the top end of the AAA grade will be the pearls with the best luster and shape, These were usually saved for earrings and rings and sold one or two at a time.

    With some prompting from members of the forum for gem quality pearls, Jeremy started buying a lot of these top % of the top % gems. He then had them matched and drilled for necklaces, a first in the industry. This top perecent of pearls is most likely to have true orient and natural overtones and the brightest luster. The are the top of the AAA end of the continuum and thus the best cfw pearls available. These pearls do not even need much, if any processing, especially compared to most akoyas and lower quality CFWP. Even the A and AA and most of the AAA are processed to enhance them and match them better.

    Maybe the people with the CFWP standard should add another grade, but it has not yet been done, so claims of AAA+ or AAAA are not part of the grading scale now used. Pearl merchants consider it an ethical violation to add higher grades to the scale and then claim you have those pearls.

    The Japanese have a way of distinguishing the very best of the akoyas and actually certify those few necklaces that are the best quality. They call this grade "handama". When Jeremy brought the first gem quality strands back and held the famous "which is which?" poll, more people guessed wrong between a hanadama and a one of these gem quality CFWP strands. They thought the freshwater pearl strand was the akoya.

    Freshadama is a play on words referring to hanadama quality in freshwater pearls, for those who are educated enough to know.

    (And maybe the public will become more educated and discriminating about their pearls as they follow this forum.)
    Last edited by Caitlin; 12-11-2006 at 11:12 PM.
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

  4. #4
    mikehrz
    Guest

    Default

    Also, as has been discussed fairly extensively on this forum, one merchant's grades are NOT directly comparable with any other merchant's. The grading scales (including Jeremy's use of A-AAA + freshadama) are completely subjective and unique to each merchant that uses them. There is absolutely no guarantee that one seller's AAA strand will be as good as an AAA strand purchased elsewhere.

    The only real exception is hanadama, which can only be certified by the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japan. You can read more about that here. It is also a subjective grade, but it is far more reliable than the letter grades used by individual merchants since all hanadama certs are issued by the same organization.

    For the moment, Jeremy is the only retailer of freshadamas, as far as I know. The freshadama grade is also quite reliable, since (like hanadama) there is only one organization currently using that grade. Granted, unlike the Pearl Science Lab, Jeremy is a direct seller of pearls and therefore does have an "agenda" of sorts. However, he is known to be an extremely reputable dealer, and having established the standard of freshadama, it's fair to say that he isn't likely to ruin his company's reputation by significantly lowering the freshadama standard.

    Quote Originally Posted by icevic
    So far I have bought only for my wife because I haven't figured out how to integrate them into a man's wardrobe yet. Perhaps cufflinks? We'll see.
    I see we have something in common. You may want to try something like this necklace. Consider a matching bracelet too. You can see pics of mine here. I've also got a tie tack made from a dyed freshwater pearl (not a freshadama). No pic, but I like it a lot. I'm also coveting one of these bracelets and have knocked around a couple ideas for a pearl ring with Jeremy. So the possibilities are definitely out there.

  5. #5
    Valeria101
    Guest

    Default

    Good question...

    To me, the statement that each store has a unique understanding and ethic of grading is key.

    'Freshadama' were lucky to find the operation capable to bring them to the market, and expert to define and publicize the grade and this forum.

    It is lucky too that pearl grades do not depend on some 'black box' operation (hint: diamond grades :roll-eyes: )- a pair of eyes and experience are supposed to be enough. And having seen or owning a few great pearls constitute experience... The tradition of pearl grading is quite reassuring covering the basis - a dozen or so centuries must have been enough to decide what the best pearls biologically possible look like...

    Wanna do you own? Owning a few great ones should teach the right lesson. And examples of even very fine pearls are not extraordinarily expensive by gem standards.

    In case this sounds crazy, well, I didn't invent the practice: professional buyers of precious stones carry sets of reference stones - a historic practice. Unlike pros, I can't pretend to own the right samples for everything interesting including most of the dozens of types of natural pearls (!), but to some extent visual memory works too for my unambitious use. It looks like Zeide's closet is among the best 'pearl-grading labs' for this reason.

    Posting on other forums, I used to have as tag a quote from Souren Melikian, the art critic: "Experts are as good as the sum total of what they have seen" - couldn't find a better mantra of gem grading since!

    My 2c...
    Last edited by Valeria101; 12-12-2006 at 06:58 AM.

  6. #6
    Valeria101
    Guest

    Default

    A raw grading set made publicly available along with Zeide's application of the Dana standard sounds great

    How many non-Freshadama pearls at large would be expected to pass though... and how many hyped bastards would fail, treatments & all ...

  7. #7
    New Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Great Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    14

    Default

    Jeremy,
    I'm so grateful for the explanation you gave here about how the Freshadama line came into being. It makes more sense to me now. I have read a lot about them here and on your site but never quite understood how they were picked to be Freshadamas. I knew they were the top of the freshwater pearls but I think I have a little better understanding now. I have been talking to my hubby about them and I brought a pair of studs to see what they were like...and I loved them. After I read your post today I shared your explanation with my husband and he said "then why don't you buy the necklace you want" ...so I did, and a pair of dangle earrings to match. I am putting the lavender ones on my future wish list cause Zeide said in a post that I read a while back that the lavender Freshadama's were really beautiful. My girlfriends will sooooo love the Freshadamas when they see them! One of them is an Akoya lover...she thinks they're tops...my new necklace and earrings might convince her otherwise don't you think.
    Thanks again to everyone here for all the good info.
    TaTa for now
    Last edited by jewelrybabie; 12-12-2006 at 06:20 AM.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Posts
    5,795

    Default

    Well first, there is not a 5000 year standard that exists today. Is there any 'standard' that has remained constant for 5000 years without 100's of generations of interpretation.

    A specific grading set would be plausible. We use a makeshift set currently; two strands of differing overtone with the strand in question rolled between. Much of the loose product does not make the cut (many times a single pearl can destroy the grade), and those that do not are rolled into AAA inventory.

    As for strands that would make the cut, I do not believe a strand could 'unless' it was composed in the same fashion, utilizing loose pearl quality, and only selecting properly from a loose-pearl lot (and from a properly separated loose pearl lot). But I have no intention of becoming a 'testing lab' for freshadama. Although I am certain others will attempt to create the same grade in 2007. Loose lots are already commanding more than a 25% premium from fresh harvests.

  9. #9
    Zeide Erskine
    Guest

    Default

    "freshadama" is a propietary and copyrighted term to me and legally only pertains to strands that I proclaim to be so.
    Last edited by Caitlin; 05-30-2007 at 09:19 PM.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Posts
    5,795

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jewelrybabie
    I am putting the lavender ones on my future wish list cause Zeide said in a post that I read a while back that the lavender Freshadama's were really beautiful. My girlfriends will sooooo love the Freshadamas when they see them! One of them is an Akoya lover...she thinks they're tops...my new necklace and earrings might convince her otherwise don't you think.
    Thanks again to everyone here for all the good info.
    TaTa for now
    I am going to have to put lavender at the top of the radar for the next trip for sure. Unfortunately this will mean a severe drop in multis, but the best lavenders just have not lasted. In the standard freshwaters they did not sell as well as the pinks and whites, but in freshadama, they were the first to go. Because of our December PR campaign I had not choice but to concentrate on separated white lots this month, but next month I am sure we will completely replenish.

    A lot of Akoya lovers really do find a new love in the freshadama. Yes, the freshadama have been compared against the Hanadama, but at the same time the Hanadama have still won favor with some. The Akoya do still have a look that the freshadama do not (while the freshadama have a look the Akoya do not). But if the Akoya lover is not simply drawn to the metallic sheen and reflection, chances are good the freshadama will win over.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Posts
    5,795

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeide Erskine
    Such transparency is unheard of in the industry. So far, though, "freshadama" is a propietary and copyrighted term to me and legally only pertains to strands that I proclaim to be so.
    Actually it is a piece created by me, and trademarked by me. Freshadama is a Pearl Paradise brand.

  12. #12
    Valeria101
    Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd

    But I have no intention of becoming a 'testing lab' for freshadama. Although I am certain others will attempt to create the same grade in 2007.

    Someone should... lest it becomes just another word out there like the 'AAAAAAAA+++' thing

    Maybe such activity falls under 'public duty' more than business, but Industry self-regulation is 'business' for some nonetheless. For better or worse...

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Posts
    5,795

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Valeria101
    Someone should... lest it becomes just another word out there like the 'AAAAAAAA+++' thing

    Maybe such activity falls under 'public duty' more than business, but Industry self-regulation is 'business' for some nonetheless. For better or worse...
    I would be ok with that, actually. If another company can do it, more power to them. It is a very expensive, very difficult experiment. If they can do it and do it for less, I would be impressed. I would consider emulation flattery. I know of one other seller in LA that creates the same types of pieces, he is trying to trademark the term 'Pure Pearl' (good luck with Amanda Raab on that one). But the 9mm strands start around $4k. He is creating on a single selection basis...

  14. #14
    New Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Great Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd

    The Akoya do still have a look that the freshadama do not (while the freshadama have a look the Akoya do not). But if the Akoya lover is not simply drawn to the metallic sheen and reflection, chances are good the freshadama will win over.
    Jeremy,
    You better be sure to send me a real fine necklace then. If the white ones don't do it maybe the beautiful lavender ones will.

  15. #15
    Valeria101
    Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd
    I would be ok with that, actually. If another company can do it, more power to them.

    That is great, of course.

    It does help that Freshadama are still a badly kept secret untouched by eBay word-mongers... or the like.

    Seeing what said practice does to other word-of-mouth quality standards ('Imperial' topaz, 'Paraiba' tourmaline... whatever) has been quite intriguing. Perhaps the association with cultured pearls is out of place: just enough for a (non-contentious) academic pipe dream.
    Last edited by Valeria101; 12-12-2006 at 07:28 AM.