Rarity and Value of Pearls
How do we know the value of pearls?
Grading a Pearl
When placing a value on gems, there are standard grading systems in place that a gemologist or appraiser refers to. However, pearls stand alone in that they do not have an official grading system. Value is dependent upon several factors; luster, surface condition, shape, color, and size. There are two groups of pearls that undergo grading based on these factors.
- Natural Pearls – rare, hard to find and are produced without any help from humans.
- Cultured – man introduces the foreign material into the oyster for it to create a pearl using farming methods.
Factors Used in Grading a Pearl
When one looks at the pearl, what is the first thing that you notice? Pearls are infamous for its silky, iridescent color. This luminosity is what’s known as “luster.” Luster is what gives the pearl the beautiful shimmery appearance. Pearls have varying degrees of brilliance with some being bright and some being rather dull or matte in appearance. Luster can be compared to paint. When you choose paint, you have choices of finish; gloss, semi-gloss, matte, eggshell. A gloss is shiny, bright and stands out just as the luster would on a high graded pearl. Eggshell, however, is dull and flat lacking vibrancy. A pearl that is at the low spectrum of grading would be like the eggshell finish of paint.
Luster is the predominant factor in grading a pearl. Classification of luster and the guidelines in ranking a pearl’s luster are:
- “Excellent” AAAA – when the pearl’s reflection of light is bright and distinctive
- “Very Good” AAA – when the pearl’s reflection of light is bright and somewhat distinctive
- “Good” AA – when the pearl’s reflection of light is bright, but the vibrancy appears dull
- “Fair” A – when the pearl’s reflection of light is poor, and it lacks any shimmer
- “Poor” – when the pearl lacks any appearance of vibrancy is nothing more than dull
The surface condition of a pearl is vital when grading it. Conditions such as blemishes, pits or ring-like formations on the surface cause the value of the pearl to be low. A pearl with a smooth rounded surface is graded higher.
Pearls are not all entirely rounded; however, the rounded pearl is more valuable and is generally graded high.
Not all pearls are white. There are variations in color and intensity. Those that are darker in color are considered rare and fall within the top grade.
Pearls are not all dainty as we envision and can vary in size. Some are as small as seeds and can be as large as 75 lbs.! Of course, the bigger they are, the more value they bring and demand top grade.
The cost of Pearls
Although extremely rare, they can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars
- Akoya – $300 to $10,000
- South Sea – $1000 to $100,000
- Tahitian – $500 to $25,000
- Freshwater – $50 – $2,000
What are some rare pearls?
The golden pearl is the rarest pearl grown in the world. Very rare to find – only 0.01% of oysters produce a gold pearl! The golden-lipped oyster produces this pearl in the Philippines. Its color is pale sunny yellow to honey amber. Value of a small pair of golden pearl earrings easily costs $8,000.
Conch pearls are also rare and are created in a queen conch sea snail. These pearls are small and range in color; peach, pastel pink, dark pink. The dark pink is the most coveted of conch pearls. Only 1 in 10,000 queen conch sea snails produce a conch pearl and 1 in 100 are of gem quality. The efforts of many to try creating a cultured conch pearl has proven unsuccessful. The queen conch does not do well with the culturing process.
The black-lipped oyster produces the magnificent Tahitian Black Pearl. These oysters are found just off the French Polynesian coast. These pearls come in a variety of colors such as black, dark green, and peacock.
Melo Melo Pearls can be found in the Melo Melo sea snail located in Southeast Asia. Its shape is spherical and is hard to find. Its color ranges from hues of orange to pale yellow. This pearl tends to fade with exposure to the sun.
What is the world’s most valuable and expensive pearl?
Discovered by a Philippino fisherman in the sea off the coast of Palawan Island. The pearl brings a jaw-dropping value of $100 million! He found this pearl hiding inside of a giant clam. Little did he realize what he had much less the value of the gem. Taking it home, he hid it under his bed. It measured 26” long and 12” wide and came in at a whopping 75 lbs.
Another pearl that follows suit to the big one is the “Pearl of Allah.” Valued at $35 million and weighing 15 lbs., this pearl was also found off the Palawan in the Philippines. It is now on exhibit in New York’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum.
This concludes our blog about pearls. If you’d like to discuss options to view and purchase our rare pearls. Email us