There’s nothing we love more than that perfectly round, flawlessly smooth, brilliantly lustrous surface of the mighty pearl. But that perfection is quite rare. Very few pearls as they emerge from the depths of the sea and the confines of the oyster are blemish-free. A surface reminiscent of the moon is more common. As an organic gem, pearls go through no polishing or manipulation when they are culled from the ocean; they are simply ready to be faceted into truly exceptional pieces of jewelry. The raw surface quality, therefore, has a direct impact on the value of the finished jewelry. Fewer blemishes amount to greater value. So what do you look for when shopping for pearl jewelry and how do you judge pearl flaws?
First and foremost, observe the surface of the pearl. Is it smooth and glossy like a freshly minted billiard ball? Or is it pockmarked and scratched like a well-fielded polo ball? The surface condition of a pearl is one of the most crucial value factors, and often is indicative of the durability of the pearl. A pearl of the finest quality, like those that comprise the Spey fine pearl jewelry collection here in Washington, DC, are free of the blemishes that define pearls of lower quality. If pearl flaws are quite visible or pronounced, the pearl commands less value than those expressing cleaner, smoother surfaces. Generally, these can be grouped into four ‘grades’ of pearl flaws. Pearls may be either:
- Clean, with no visible blemishes or at most, very tiny surface discrepancies which are not perceptible without special equipment;
- Lightly spotted, or those that exhibit minor imperfections when examined by a trained eye;
- Moderately spotted and showing several visible surface spots; or
- Heavily spotted with very obvious surface imperfections and pearl flaws.
Those pearls with greater surface flaws tend to be less durable, less valuable, and less desirable than their more perfect pearl compatriots. Blemishes like chips, gaps and cracks might even expand or worsen with wear, making pearls exhibiting these characteristics poor choices to add to a jewelry collection. Spots, pits, wrinkles and rings on a pearls surface equally lessen the value, but are less likely to spread with time. Natural, tiny imperfections on a pearls surface are normal, but exceptionally crafted jewelry like the pieces in the Spey collection only choose pearls with the best surface quality. So the next time you happen near some pearls, peer a little closer. What is the surface telling you?