Much like diamonds, pearls have different grades that will determine the price and quality of the pearl. But the categories are different than the 4 C’s of diamonds. Pearls are graded on their shape, lustre, surface, nacre and matching. Most jewelers will rate pearls on the A system with A being the lowest grade and AAA being the best. 

Complete Guide to Pearls

Each of the categories that your pearl is rated on will depend on whether or not it is on a strand. You can discuss with your jeweler how they’ve rated the pearls because strands of  pearls are rated against each other.

Here are the 5 categories your pearl will be graded on:

  • Shape - Natural pearls develop into different shapes including round, tear drop, oval and near round. Round pearls will demand the highest prices as they are rarer. The AAA grade is reserved for the roundest pearls. Keep in mind that non-round pearls are also very valuable and sought-after because of their unusual characteristics.

  • Lustre - This refers to the shine of the pearl. Based on its brilliance, the lustre is graded by the light reflection. Chalky pearls will receive the lower grade of A while the shiniest of pearls will receive the AAA grade.

  • Surface - The quality of the surface of the pearl is a big factor in the pricing. Much like diamonds, you want the pearl to be as clean as possible. Imperfections are almost unavoidable when it comes to cultured pearls and are accepted. But pits and holes or a thin nacre will dramatically lower the price of the pearl. AAA pearls will be clean and clear to the naked eye.

  • Nacre - When inside of an oyster, pearls are coated for protection. This is called nacre. The thicker the nacre, the longer the pearl has been inside of an oyster. The thickness of a pearl’s nacre will be undetectable to the naked eye, but jewelers can make a distinction between an A pearl with 0.25mm of nacre and a AAA pearl with 0.5mm of nacre.

  • Matching - This category applies mainly to pearls in necklaces, earrings or bracelets. It’s very important to have the pearls on a strand match as much as possible. The pearls won’t be identical. In nature that’s almost impossible and it also gives it an artificial look. It’s most important that the pearls match in color, lustre and surface quality.

If you’d like to view our wide selection of pearl jewelry, come visit our Scottsdale jewelry store. Our associates will help you find the perfect piece of pearl jewelry with incredible quality and design.