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How Much Are My Pearls Worth?

How Much Are My Pearls Worth? Featured Image

If you are looking to sell a pearl necklace or other item of pearl jewelry, the first question on your mind is likely, “How much are my pearls worth?” There are various factors which impact the value of pearls, and we will cover each one in this article on appraising the value of pearl gems.

Pearls are naturally occurring gems formed by concentric deposits of calcium carbonate crystals in the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusc. While ideal pearls are perfectly round and smooth, the natural process that creates them rarely leads to perfection. Pearls occurring spontaneously in the wild are known as natural pearls, and are quite rare indeed. Most pearls used in jewelry today are cultured or farmed pearls from freshwater mussels or pearl oysters.  Imitation pearls are used for inexpensive jewelry, and are easily distinguished from their real counterparts.

Natural and cultured pearls are judged by the same standards of quality. Their overall value is determined by size, shape, color, luster, and surface and nacre quality.

How Pearl Size Affects Value

If all other quality factors for a given pearl are the same, a larger pearl will always be more valuable, as larger pearls take longer to form and are simply more rare. Pearl size is expressed in terms of its diameter, which is measured in millimeters. Cultured pearl types generally have specific size ranges, and prices for them can vary widely according to what the type of pearl is being considered.

For instance, Japanese Akoya and Freshwater pearls generally occur in sizes from 2.0 mm to 12 mm, and Tahitian and South Sea pearls tend to be much larger, from 9.0 mm to 20.0 mm. Since a 12.0 mm Akoya pearl is much more rare than a 12.0 mm South Sea pearl, The Akoya pearl would command a higher price.

How Pearl Shape Affects Value

The most prized shape for a pearl is, of course, perfectly round, but round is the most difficult shape to culture. Pearls are often divided into four basic groups of shapes: round, off-round, semi-baroque, and baroque. If all other quality factors are the same, a round pearl will be more valuable than one slightly out of round, and the value will decrease accordingly as they approach the very irregular and uneven baroque shape. Occasionally, a well-formed oval, pear, or baroque pearl  can be highly valued for its uniqueness and rarity.

How Pearl Color Affects Value

Pearls are most often thought of as a classic, creamy white, but pearls do occur naturally in a wide range of colors, from white, yellow, pink, and golden, to blue and black and most colors in between. Most pearl colors tend to be muted and soft.

Color in pearls can have three components: body color, the pearl’s dominant color; overtone, the translucent color or colors that lie over the pearl’s body color; and orient, the rainbow iridescence on or below the pearl’s surface. While all pearls have body color, only some will display orient, overtone, or both.

The most common color for pearls ranges from cream to a silvery white, and black pearls are the most rare. Fashion, as well as the laws of supply and demand, often determines which color pearls are the most valuable.

Color in pearls also varies with pearl type. Akoya pearls are generally the classic white with rose, cream, and silver overtones. Freshwater pearls produce a wide variety of colors, with the most common being lavender and peach. White South Sea cultured pearls generally have a white body color with rose and silver overtones; and Golden South Sea Pearls can vary from a light champagne color to deep golden body colors, with the darker varieties commanding higher prices. Tahitian pearls tend to have darker body colors like grey and green, with pink to dark green overtones.

How Pearl Luster Affects Value

Of all the factors that determine a pearl’s value, luster is by far the most important. Luster is a basically the reflective brilliance of a pearl, and describes the quality and quantity of light that is reflected from the surface and just below the surface of the pearl. Luster is what gives pearls their unique beauty.

A pearl’s luster is described by the nature of its reflective qualities. Pearls with excellent or high luster will have bright, mirror-like reflections, with sharp and distinct edges. A pearl with low luster will appear chalky or milky, giving a poor reflection. Of pearls that are the same type, with other quality factors being equal, pearls with higher luster are always more valuable.

How Pearl Surface And Nacre Quality Affect Value

Some pearls can exhibit surface imperfections, like small scratches or ridges, or even slightly flattened sections. Severe or numerous imperfections can adversely affect the durability of the pearl, and decrease its value, though minor surface imperfections can often be hidden by careful mounting.

Nacre is the actual material secreted by the mollusk that creates the pearl. In cultured pearls, this nacreous layer can be of varying depths, and the depth of the nacre directly affects the luster and durability of the pearl. In a pearl with a chalky or dull appearance you can assume that the nacre is thin, and the pearl’s value will suffer as a result.

Get a Free Pearls Appraisal

Contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free verbal appraisal of your pearl necklace, ring, brooch, earrings, or loose pearls. You can also get the process started online by telling us about the pearl jewelry you wish to sell in the contact form below.

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Carl Blackburn is owner of Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers and rated among the country’s top luxury estate buyers. Carl is unique among estate jewelry buyers in that he is both a veteran estate jeweler and internationally-recognized designer of diamond jewelry.

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