Thanks to improvements made by the pearl industry there has been a prolific increase in the production of pearl jewellery. But not everyone is happy. Some suppliers complain that the glut of pearls is pushing global prices down. Expert jewelers complain that pearls of questionable quality are being released on the market in big numbers. Now while the easy on the wallet bit should sound OK to all pearl lovers, the quality issue is a cause for concern.
So what is all the fuss about quality about?
Fact No 1: Cultured Pearls are not indestructible- Unlike precious gems, gold or silver, pearls are the by products of living creatures.
Fact No 2: Bottom line- If the quality of the cultured pearls is poor, they will wear away quickly. All that will be left after wearing for a few months will be the string with the shell beads.
This has really nothing to do with the 4 S’s which are so often used to describe pearl quality- SIZE, SHAPE, SHADE or SURFACE. All these are really personal preferences and even the experts agree with that. However it is a widely accepted fact that the most important feature determining the value of any pearl is the 5 ‘th S or the SHINE -for want of a better name!
The SHINE is a natural property of each and every single pearl bead. Unlike Size, Shape, Shade or Surface, SHINE is more of an abstract concept. In reality SHINE cannot be given a number or measured with a scale. It is not even reported in any form, although it is of course reflected in the price of the pearl, no pun intended. SHINE is a property that remains in the eye of the beholder. Technically a pearl is described as having luster, orient, iridescence, an inner glow, and the list goes on! And all these have a logical explanation- and it all has to do with the thickness and the layering of “nacre”. Nacre is the pearly coating or mother-of-pearl that is deposited in concentric layers around center of the pearl. Natural pearls have full thickness nacre, and this is what makes them so special and valuable and long lasting.
So if the thickness of the nacre is so important can it be measured? The answer is yes but at a significant cost because the technique requires the use of sophisticated equipment that can only be found in special laboratories. Some pearl experts are of the opinion that knowing and measuring the thickness of the nacre is essential if one is spending serious money. A nacre that is at least 0.4 mm makes a high quality pearl that would last a very long time. But in real life measuring nacre is not done routinely because of the added expense. The notable exception to this is the Black Tahitian pearl. The Ministry de Perliculture de Tahiti tightly controls the quality of pearls released on the market and sets a standard nacre thickness of 0.8mm or more.
The following are some suggested techniques that can help determine the quality of the pearls based on the SHINE property:
* Examine each pearl in a good light. If the nacre layer is too thin, the pearl will appear to be transparent and the central core can be seen through the surface.
* Look at your reflection on the pearl’s surface. The clearer the reflection, the higher the quality of the pearl. Milky looking pearls indicate poor quality.
* Stay away if the surface appears to be already peeling off as this is a sure sign of thin nacre.
* Avoid trying on pearls while wearing red or similar shades. Looking at pearls in a red reflection gives the false impression of thick nacre. On the other hand a red dress or blouse will make an excellent complement to your pearls!
* Do not examine pearls in bright artificial light or under direct sunlight. Have them removed from direct bright light and give time for your eyes to accommodate before you proceed with your examination.
* Compare the strand with some others, especially higher priced ones as typically the higher the price the better the quality.
* Take your time as you go through each individual pearl in the strand. It is difficult for all to be exactly the same but the overall look should be uniform. Keep in mind that the beads in the center of the necklace are the most important and thus should be the best of the whole strand.
You can more interesting articles about pearls on my blog [http://highqualitypearls.com] which is a fun blog all about pearls!