How Pearls are Graded
By: Emily Laput
Pearls are timeless, and we’ll discuss how these classy pearls are classified.
There is no set standard for pearl grading, so it can be subjective. We will be using the A-AAA grading scale. AAA is the highest quality pearl and A is the lowest.
Pearls are graded based on seven factors: luster, shape, color, surface blemishing, size, matching, and whether they are cultured or natural.
Luster - Luster is the rate of reflection and one of the most important factors in pearl grading. The brighter, sharper, and more reflective a pearl is, the more valuable it will be.
Shape - The more round a pearl is, the more rare it is. While some may prefer some asymmetrical or unique pearls, pearls are graded based on symmetry.
Color - A common misconception is that pearls only come in white, but pearls actually come in many different colors, such as black or yellow. A pearl is graded higher if it’s color is deeper and more saturated. Exotic or premium colors are more coveted and expensive.
Surface Blemishing - Pearls are organic gemstones, meaning they are created through a biological process. Because of this, pearls will likely have some sort of surface blemish, even if it’s microscopic. That’s what makes them unique! Some blemishes include inclusions, dents or divots, score marks, pin pricks, circles, wrinkles, flat spots, ridges, and pitting.
Size - On average, cultured pearls tend to be under 10 mm in size. The larger the pearl, the higher the grade and value. Natural pearls are more rare and expensive than cultured pearls, especially when it comes to size.
Matching - If you are given a set of pearls, such as in a necklace, the similarity of the pearls play a role in the pearls’ grading. The closer they are in size, color, and shape, the higher they are graded.
Cultured or Natural - 95% of all pearls on the market are cultured, meaning manmade. Natural pearls found from the ocean are rare.