Pearl Surface

Pearl Surface in Pearl Grading
The surface cleanliness of a cultured or natural pearl has a direct correlation to its value. A pearl can never, according to rules set forth by the FTC, be graded as "flawless", but the degree or percentage of inclusions or surface imperfections can be measured by anyone with experience.

What to Look for on a Pearl's Surface
  • When grading pearls, the appearance of the surface of a pearl is one of the most important characteristics in determining its overall desirability and value. Ideally, the pearl's surface should be smooth, clean, and shiny. It should have few, if any, bumps, abrasion, or other surface flaws.
  • Cracks are a highly undesirable thing on cultured pearls and should be avoided whenever possible, but it can be a defect that we could forgive on natural pearls, due to their rarity and their origin (some varieties of pearl will always have cracks).
Japanese Mabe Pearl with cracks - Japanese Mabe Pearl with cracks

A pearl with an area affected by a crack, propably due to impact.

Luster on the Pearl's Surface is Critical to Value
The pearl's surface luster is critical. Luster measures the brilliance and reflectivity of a pearl. The more brilliant and mirror-like the surface of the pearl is, the higher its quality. A dull or chalky surface indicates an inferior pearl.
WSSP Pearl Luster (Small).png

How Flaws on the Pearl's Surface affect its Value
  • Almost no pearl will ever have a perfect surface. Some flaws or irregularities are almost certain to be found on any pearl.
  • The way to judge the degree to which these imperfections may affect the value or quality of the pearl, is to examine how visible or obvious they are, and whether they will affect the durability of the pearl.
  • Chips, gaps, or cracks in the pearl's surface are the most serious flaws, because they can cause the pearl to break or peel, thus destroying both its beauty and its value. Flaws such as these can impact the value of even the most otherwise high-quality pearls. This is particularly important to watch for when grading pearls.
  • Perhaps your pearl has small imperfections? How many does it have? When grading or valuing pearls they may be counted individually (as 1 to 3 small imperfections) or as a percentage of the total area of the pearl (20% or less of the pearl has welts).
Pearl with Many Surface Defects - A pearl with a large quantity of surface imperfections such as this one should be avoided.

A Cortez Pearl full of surface imperfections that have rendered it unnaceptable and thus sent to destruction.

Minor Flaws on the Pearl's Surface can be Acceptable
  • Less-serious problems that are often found are minor scratches or abrasions, which may affect small areas of the pearl's luster or color; small spots or variations in the pearl's coloring; and tiny bubbles or wrinkles in the pearl's surface.
  • Irregularities such as these do not indicate a weakness in the pearl's structure (such as a crack would), and they are often so small as to be virtually unnoticeable.

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