Here at Victoria Emerson, we create pieces using Freshwater Pearls.
Freshwater Pearls are pearls grown in freshwater. These pearls are affordable, come in a wide variety of colors/sizes, and tend to be more durable than other types (ie. pearls that come from saltwater).
Pearls produced in freshwater grow in mussels which are known to have a beautiful and thick inner shell (also known as the nacre, or mother-of-pearl) that helps add lots of luster.
One mussel will typically produce around 20-30 pearls before harvested. If harvested carefully, the mussel can be reused to continue to produce more pearls. If it’s in no condition to continue producing, the muscle is then used for food, and the shell is used for jewelry, meaning very little is ever wasted or just thrown away.
Once Pearls have been collected, before they’re turned into accessories, they’re given a Grade. There currently isn’t a universal Grading system so you’re likely to see some variety, but these are the general standards:
|Superior Quality, only small,
barely noticeable, imperfections.
|Good Quality, some small
|Fair Quality, moderately
|Low Quality, large and/or
many moderate imperfections
*A-D scale also used but not as common
Because the scale isn’t universally used, some sellers may try and take advantage of it to make their Pearls “seem” better. Sometimes grades can be seen like AAAA or AA+ but watch out for weird ones like +AAAA, pearls can only be so good.
Pictured: Freshwater Pearls on Natural
How do Pearls receive their Grade? While the scale isn’t universal, just about all Pearls are judged on 7 factors to be given a grade:
The most important factor is Luster. Luster can be described as the glow of a pearl, how bright and shiny is it? This rating is determined by how well a pearl reflects its surroundings. How much can you see in the reflection? Is the reflection fuzzy or sharp? Can you see the different colors in the area? Ones that display brights clear, reflection receive a higher rating.
SURFACEThe second most important would be the quality of the Pearl’s Surface. They look at how clean and smooth it is. Any imperfections like scratches, spots of different colors, bumps, or wrinkles can lower its rating. The smoother the Surface, the better.
SHAPEPearls vary in all kinds of shapes. Perfectly round ones, receive the highest rating. This is due to being the most popular shape and the most classic style. Other Shapes include Button where it’s dome-shaped. Drop which is shaped like an oval and Baroque (or raw pearls) which are varied in shape. 50-60% of pearls are Baroque which means they’re not as rare and the non-uniformity receives a low rating. They were once not well appreciated but recently have become more popular for their unique shapes.
SIZEBasically, the bigger the pearl, the more money it’ll cost, the higher the rating. On average, Pearls are sized 5 mm to 21 mm and often don’t get much larger. Ones that are larger take longer to cultivate and produce making them rarer and more costly.
14k is 58.3% gold with the rest being a metal mix. This combo is best if you’re looking for something to wear everyday or a piece that doesn't have that extremely yellow gold color. It makes the item much more durable against scratching or warping so they can hold up against a lot of wear!
The Matching rating is based on a Pearl’s ability to match other Pearls. This can be very important when trying to build a very uniform piece (think classic round Pearl Necklace). It’s important to remember though that the ability to match can be affected through processing (ie. bleaching and polishing) and therefore is not as important of a factor as some of the others.
NATURAL OR CULTURED
Cultured pearls are what’s most commonly found available to purchase. Natural pearls are incredibly rare, which greatly impacts the rating and price. They are in fact so rare, you would likely need to be specifically looking for Natural Pearl in to find one. Every other case you'll likely always be buying Cultured.
Pictured: Asymmetrical Gold Vermeil Pearl Bracelet
It's important to note that it's the combination of all the 7 factors that will give a Pearl it's Grade. For example, a Baroque or Raw pearl, which will rate low in Shape, can still receive a high Grade if it's rating in other categories are high.
Now you can see what makes a piece so special. Now that you know what to look for, you can find Pearls that are high quality and match your own personal style.
At Victoria Emerson, we've got a variety of Pearls pieces, including AAAA Freshwater Pearls. From a classic, perfectly round pearls to uniquely shaped droplets, you're sure to find something you enjoy!
Have you seen our Pearl Collection section? We've got Bracelets, Necklace, and even Earrings for all your Pearl Dreams!