6 Ways to Determine Pearl Quality

6 Ways to Determine Pearl Quality

When you’re looking for your perfect pearl, the first thing to do is touch it. It should feel cool, somewhat heavy for its size and have a gritty texture if you rub it against another pearl. These three factors will indicate you're looking at a real pearl, and not a clever fake. To get the highest-caliber genuine pearl, your next order of business is to check out six different factors used to determine a pearl’s overall quality.


Pearl measurements indicate the diameter in millimeters, with the average pearl in today’s marketplace measuring between 5.5 and 11 millimeters. The size of a pearl can help determine its value, provided all other factors are the same. A smaller pearl with a highly rated luster, surface and nacre quality, for instance, may actually be worth more than a larger pearl with a poor luster, surface and nacre quality.


Although the beauty of a pearl’s shape is largely subjective, pearls that are nearly round and feature symmetrical shapes tend to be considered the most valuable. Because pearls are organic and form naturally, it’s extremely rare to find a perfectly round pearl. A strand of genuine pearls will feature pearls that vary slightly in shape, while fake pearls will be perfectly round and uniform.


Whether a pearl is white, pink or bluish-grey, three different factors are used to determine a pearl’s quality based on color. The first is the hue, or the first impression of the color. The second is the tone, or the lightness or darkness. The third is saturation, or the intensity of the color. You can gauge these characteristics by noting the overall body color of the pearl, the translucent overtones and the colors shimmering just below the pearl’s surface, also known as the orient-iridescent.


Luster tops the list of what to look for in a high-end pearl, and it’s produced by the reflection of light from deep within the pearl. Luster rankings range from excellent to poor, with excellent luster letting you see sharp, bright and distinct reflections. Good luster gives you bright yet hazy reflections; fair luster reflections are weak and blurred. Reflections in poor luster are diffused and dim.

Surface Quality

Genuine pearls are going to have flaws, and the fewer they have, the higher quality they are. Surface quality is determined by four different categories. Clean pearls are at the top of the scale, with minute flaws nearly invisible to the naked eye. Other classifications are lightly, moderately or heavily blemished.

Nacre Quality

Pearls are formed by thousands of layers of nacre, which are the delicate, overlapping plates secreted by the mollusk to produce the pearl. The pearl’s nucleus is the irritant that landed in the mollusk to prompt the production of nacre. The highest-quality pearls will have a nearly invisible nucleus and clear appearance. The lowest-end will have a noticeable nucleus and a chalky, dull appearance.
Ensuring your pearl measures up well to these six factors can help ensure you have a high-end, quality pearl – your perfect pearl indeed.