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Size of Black Freshwater Pearls - and Lustre

PGDesign

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
53
Hi Everybody,

I've really enjoyed reading the forum over the last few weeks. I started buying pearls a few months ago, and I was relieved to see some of my chosen suppliers posting on this site.

Despite absorbing so much valuable information, I would still appreciate some clarification on a couple of points - I know many of you are true experts and your input would be greatly appreciated. Firstly, I've been looking for a large (10-11mm) black cultured freshwater pearl necklace, but from what I've seen, when you get to this size, there is very much a trade off between the various quality components. I've seen such strands which were nice and round, and a reasonable colour, but rather 'matte' in appearance. Or, they have been more lustrous, but more irregular in shape. I'm concluding it must be difficult to find a very round, dazzlingly lustrous strand of this size?

Secondly, whilst browsing around all my local jewellers, I've seen that many strands (of varying colours and sizes) are 'shiny' as opposed to 'lustrous'. To my inexperienced eyes lustre appears to be a glow, an irridescence, where secondary colours might be visible. But I have seen pearls that are merely 'glossy'. By the way, it is freshwater pearls I am looking at, not akoyas. Does this mean the glossy freshwater pearls I refer to have been buffed up to a shine, in an attempt to compensate for a lack of natural beauty - or are they naturally like this, and still fairly desirable? I hope I am making sense in my poor explanation!

Once again, your views would be gratefully received, and I'd like to thank all the various members for making this such a fascinating forum.

Warm regards
PG
 
P

PearlStruck.com

Guest
There is very often a trade-off when you get into the larger size pearls. The reason it is so noticable is because you are dealing with averages, or averages of production.

For example, if you consider only pearls that fall into the 7-8 mm range and the production is at 100 metric tons you will have the material to create approximately 33,000,000 strands. Of these strands maybe 10% will be jewelry grade, but only 2% would be considered top necklace grade. That is still 66,000 strands. Get into the top gem grade (on this forum this is referred to as freshadama) and this number drops dramatically.

In the larger sizes the volume drops tremendously. But not only does the volume drop tremendously, the number of strands that can be created drops, and the cost of production (5-7 years in the water instead of 2-4) increases substantially. This means that the top percentage of the grade has an overall lower grade than the smaller strands - substantially lower grade.

This is something that is very noticeable in white pearls. In dyed pearls it is even more noticeable because dyed pearls sell for less than white. This means it would be foolish for a factory to dye top-grade pearls in that size. It is ever rare to find top necklace grade dyed in sizes as large as 8 mm. This is often a factory request.

The pearls you are seeing at your local stores could have higher shine for a variety of reasons. The shine may be natural, but it may very well be artificial.

Although I have not seen this in a while, in the past I would see a lot of pearls that had been coated. This coating is either polymer or other type of lacquer or paint. These pearls will exhibit an intense shine and a sort of reflection just below the surface. You can often see miniature air bubbles or other particles under the coating. You should also be able to pierce the surface with a pin.

I have also seen jewelers you a red jeweler's rouge on pearls. If you can see any redness in the thread of a knotted strand, you can be nearly sure the strand has been buffed.

The last thing is the lighting. If you have ever been to a Las Vegas show you know how difficult it is to see the true quality of pearls at those small booths under that intense light. They all seem to just pop. If you get them back to your office, however, it can be very disappointing.
 

PGDesign

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
53
PearlStruck - thank you so much for the response, that has explained a great deal. I do need to lower my expectations in terms of finding an 'acceptable' large black strand, and I feel more relaxed about that after reading your post.

Even in the 9-10mm size I have seen, the pearl quality does indeed seem compromised, when compared to the size you mentioned. On the majority of the strands I've seen, the lustre doesn't quite go all the way round the pearl, there appears to be a slightly less lustrous 'band' running around it. And again (excluding the Freshadamas) they rarely appear to be round. I think I have been guilty of judging my 10mm strands in the same way as a 7mm strand.

I did attack some shiny pearls with a pin, and they were not coated with anything, so I suspect they have just been waxed. I confess I do use olive oil occasionally on my 'everyday' quality strands, and that does appear to improve them.

I completely agree with what you have said about lighting and pearls. I have seen relatively poor quality strands appear bright and attractive under certain lighting conditions. I think that's why it can be so difficult to buy pearls online. I even had that experience recently at my jeweller's, when I got the pearls home I was most disappointed and I ended up returning them. From now on, when I go pearl hunting I will make sure I wear a very high quality piece for 'grounding' purposes.

I did see a (fairly) nice black 10-11mm strand in town recently, in a high end jeweller. They were very round, with nice colours, lustre wasn't bad (but nothing like my Tahitians). It was ?575. I find in that size bracket it can be harder to understand if the price is fair or not, it's so hard to find comparison strands.

Best wishes
PG
 
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