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Freshwater Pearl Grading Standards?



They are graded much in the same way as other pearls.

The most important is the luster. Freshwater pearls will a dull surface are not typically very valuable. Those with a very high luster are quite rare, and can be very valuable.

The shape is also very important in freshwater pearls. If the pearls are very round they are rare. Most freshwater pearls are off-round. And these can be secured quite easily for $3-$500 per kilo. Even less if you are dealing with a large factory.

Blemishing is also a big factor with freshwater pearls. Being solid nacre the inclusions are typically much more visible than in other nucleated pearls such as Akoyas.

All other factors being equal the size will always determine the value. The larger the pearls, the more valuable. But you must check to see if the pearls are nucleated (as some freshwaters are as well) before putting a lot of money down for large round freshwater pearls.



Well-known member
Dec 11, 2004
Thanks for your response. I was pleased to see a kilo price, but want to know what the ballpark kilo price would be for each grade? say 5-6 or 6-7mm, drilled. How stable is this price? When you used the word "Nucleated", did you mean with a rounded bead instead of a peice of mantle? Is it the same term for both bead and mantle?

OK some grading questions.
I bought some 4.5 size fw pearls for under $5 retail that are very round. They have a lot of banding and blemishes though, about 1 in 20 has some nice luster, 1 in 20 is duller. Would they be around a D grade or lower, if there is such a thing? The person in the store knew nothing.

Then I bought a strand of 6.5 off-round fw pearls in Tucson last week at a retail cost of under $20. I like them, because they have only very subtle banding on a very few beads. The luster is good on most and very pretty on some of them. I like the color on them -white with lively notes of pink and bluish green, they are so much prettier than the other strand. Only about 40% are round enough for my taste, the rest are too oval.

Among that 40%, none is perfectly round. They may have a little flattening on one side. One is shaped almost like a hershey kiss, many are a little narrower on one end. Each pearl in distinguishable from the others, which I love. If I had about 5 strands similar to this, I could probably top grade them and make a nice necklace.

I stopped by the store where I bought them (Strung Out On Beads) and asked Tracy, the manager, what grade they are. She said probably about a B grade and she will not have higher til the GEM and Mineral show comes to town in Feb. (I mentioned this forum to her and J Shepherd's name. She said, "Oh I know Jerry")

Would the individual pearls in an A grade strand be rounder, but still have enough character that you could tell many of them apart? I do like that better than perfect.

Also, please tell me about weight and fw pearls. Tracy said something about weight being important, but I had to go without pursuing it further.

Thanks for any answers.

Here is a picture. They look way more pink than in real life


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Caitlin Williams said:
How are freshwater pearls graded? Got some pics of high quality fw pearls?

Hi Caitlin,

I know you are now aware that there is no standard pearl grading system, and the A grading system is mostly subjective so that AAA means something different to each different person using the term.

You probably also know that Gia has developed a standard "description" system which is for the purpose of describing a pearl so that two people discussing pearls over the phone could use the descriptive terminology and be picturing the same quality and color pearl in their mind.

The challenge for the "description" system is to overcome the need for people to see a letter grade. People are so accustomed to seeing a letter grade that without one, some would be lost.

To work around that letter grade issue, we decided to develop our grading system using a combination of the GIA descriptive system, and the system of one of our factory suppliers, and then apply letter grades to each of the value factors. We specify the grade of a pearl for each of its value factors. Then we average them, giving more weight to luster first, and roundness second, to come up with an overall grade.

You can see our grading system description here: http://pearlsandjade.zoovy.com/c=tsUS8exOsx5M3GX4XYDPSDBgY/category/ourgradingsystem

After looking at the grading system, you can see an example of how we apply that system with a necklace here: http://www.pearlsandjade.com/product/N3004

The highest grade in our system is AAA+, except in "matching" where the highest possible grade is AAA. This strand gets our highest grade in each value factor, and the detailed photos back up the description and grades. The overall grade is AAA+

In this example http://www.pearlsandjade.com/product/P112P156 we only gave the pearl an AAA for luster. The luster is a little less than in the first example. We gave it an AAA for surface quality. We could have given it an AAA+ for surface but elected to be more conservative. It was AAA+ for shape, so the overall grade came out to an AAA.

Our highest luster grade is AAA+. And we designed it that way so that when we find a fw pearl that has the akoya-like luster, we will have room to add an AAAA grade.