South Sea and Tahitian Pearl Grading

Grading South Sea and Tahitian Pearls

While there is no internationally recognized number or letter system for pearl grading, there are best-grading practices that are accepted and recognized by all professional pearl dealers within the industry. Understanding grading attributes and quality characteristics of South Sea and Tahitian pearls is imperative to properly shop and compare.

Pearl Grades: Combining Seven Different Value Factors

As pearls have many differing value factors such as shape, luster, size, and surface quality combining to produce a unique gem, grading pearls can become exceedingly difficult. Although it is possible to grade each value factor individually, most purveyors of this gem rely on a simple letter-grade system.

The grading assigned by a retailer or producer is specific only to that source. In other words, grades assigned by different companies are subjective to those companies and cannot be compared with grading from diverse sources.

Fine Tahitian pearl strands from Pearl Paradise

Tahitian pearl strands

So, which System is Correct? The AAA-A System or the A-D System?

Confusion abounds regarding the use of the A-D system (the Tahitian System) or the AAA-A system, popularized by the late Kokichi Mikimoto. While some pearl dealers swear by one method, another seller may use the other. So, which is correct? The answer is simple - they both are.

As there is no International mandated system for grading pearls, nor is there an absolute alphabetical system, both systems are used interchangeably. Their use is based on location, but even this is a general rule of thumb, by no means absolute.

Both Systems are Correct

In the USA both systems are often used by different pearl companies, which is considered completely acceptable if the seller makes it known what system is being used and has an accurate representation of the quantified qualities.

In producing countries such as French Polynesia and Australia the A-D system is universally used by producers of Tahitian and South Sea pearls. However, when the pearls are auctioned in Hong Kong, these same producers utilize the AAA-A system when selling to wholesalers.

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