The Essence of a Pearl: Five Key Characteristics

Freshwater pearls typically range from 10mm to 16mm. Larger sizes exceeding this are rare. The larger the size typically, the greater the value, but size is only one of the five characteristics used to consider a pearl’s value. (Pearls below not shown to scale).
Pearls are versatile gemstones which are cultivated in fresh water as opposed to sea or saltwater

Freshwater pearls come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. Round freshwater pearls look almost identical to Akoya pearls but are less expensive. The shape of a pearl does not affect its quality, however it does impact on value. Perfectly round pearls are particularly desirable, and hence considered the most valuable of all shapes.

Although white pearls with pink overtones tend to be the most sought after, colour is a very personal choice. The easiest pearls to colour are freshwater pearls because their nacre layers are not as compact as saltwater pearls.

Complexion refers to the quality of the surface of the pearl; the number and size of the makings and their visibility. Being a natural gem, a pearl with flawless surface is exceptionally rare.

Lustre is the most important characteristic of pearl quality. Lustre is a visible phenomenon that occurs when light strikes the surface of a pearl and is then reflected back to the viewer. The tighter and more compact the layers of nacre are, the more intense the lustre will appear. Lustre describes the luminous quality of the pearl’s surface; the way the light reflects and refracts from the layers of nacre to produce a ‘glow’ appearing to be coming from within the pearl.