Pls explain water and orient

Kathleen Conway

Pearls, passionately
Nov 25, 2006
Hi all,
Recently looked at a strand of SS dove-gray keshis at a luxury jeweler. Sales person insisted, "Look at the orient on these!" To me, they displayed a soft glowing luster but absolutely no irridescent play of colour.

So my question is,
What is "water" and is it different from "orient"? Is "luster" the same as "water"?

I am seeking pearls with noticeable irridecence all over the pearl. So, what is an accurate term for that? Appreciate your comments.

PS. BTW their 17 inch strand of 12mm SS keshis- $25,000!!! Waaay out of my range.
Hi Kathleen,
Have you tried a forum search for water and orient?? I think you will find great discussion and many photos which will help you get the idea. It is a hard concept to get without photos.:)
That is an amazing:( price on those keshis!!

Luster includes mirror, orient and water. A good luster will be almost like a mirror, you can see reflections in it. A bright mirror is what distinguishes akoyas.

Orient is the iridescent play of color across, or maybe under, the surface. Keshi and baroque pearls most often have a lot of orient. Round pearls can have it, but it is rare and is often sacrificed to bleaching when it does occur. The artificial pinking overtone is not orient. Water is the most rare quality. It is the translucence of the pearl, how deep you can see into it. Now search the term "wild" water to really get into water.
It is very easy to confuse orient with luster if you do not know exactly what to look for. It is very likely that the salesperson does not know the difference. Finding an educated pearl seller in any jewelry store across America is like finding that occasional fine natural pearl necklace on eBay - they almost do not exist, except in the rarest of circumstances.

The luster of a pearl is the measure of reflection from a pearl's surface. Luster is considered the most important value factor. It is also, unfortunately, very often enhanced. This is the case with all Akoya and freshwater produced today. It is done both chemically and with heat.

Orient, on the other hand, cannot be enhanced. This is because orient is produced by not the reflection from the surface of the pearl, but by the diffraction of light from the linear layers of nacre from within the pearl. This is what give the rainbow affect that is so desired. This effect is very rare in Akoya, increasingly due to the thin skin, but is often seen in high quality freshwater and Tahitian.
25,000$ for a strand of keishi? For real? thanks on that one! I'd rather use that money for a year of my university tuition! :eek:

I'm still trying to figure out how to eye pearls to see what to look for as far as quality; it certainly isn't easy in the beginning. Usually I like to rely on my gut and if a pearl(s) speaks out to me and grabs my attention. This certainly isn't fool-proof but if I love it, I love it!