The Surface of Freshwater Pearls And Their Value

August 11, 2017 by Kiesha Joseph

What does surface quality mean when it comes to pearls? It refers to how “clean” the surface of the pearl appears. In order to judge a pearl’s surface quality (the surface of freshwater pearls too), jewelers look for various types of blemishes, including:

  • Cracks
  • Bumps
  • Spots
  • Circles
  • Wrinkles
  • Pits

When a jeweler inspects the surface of freshwater pearls, if they’re full of flaws, the expert may deem them heavily blemished. One that’s relatively free of blemishes is considered to have one of the “clean” grades.

Not All Freshwater Pearl Blemishes are Bad

There are damaging blemishes on pearls. Then, there are those that are non-damaging. Those that are damaging tend to become worse over time. These blemishes are generally formed on the pearl as it’s being processed. Blemishes that are damaging may include chips and cracks created when jewelers drill holes in the pearls to create jewelry.

Non-damaging blemishes do not worsen over time. These could include bumps, spots, and wrinkles that remain the same as time goes on.

It’s important to note that not all blemishes take away from the beauty or the ultimate value of a pearl. This rule is especially true when it comes to the freshwater pearl’s surface because they generally take about 2-3 years to completely develop. The longer they develop in the oyster, the better chance they have of being flawless or just slightly flawed, making them extremely rare gemstones.

The Surface of Freshwater Pearls Helps Dictate Value

A pearl’s value is directly affected by its surface quality. It’s extremely rare for a pearl to be completely free of blemishes. The lower the number of existing blemishes, the more valuable the pearl.

The condition of the freshwater pearl’s surface is a very vital factor in determining the durability of the gem, as well as its overall value. A pearl with a smooth surface and bright reflection is a good quality pearl. However, almost all pearls have some degree of blemishes.

So, what should you look for when shopping for pearls? The key to judging pearl surface quality is to examine how obvious and visible any existing flaws are. There are four surface classifications used to measure the blemish degree, known as GIA:

  • Clean Pearls – Have no blemishes, or they’re so tiny, they’re not visible to the naked eye
  • Lightly Spotted Pearls – Minor imperfections found when examined by professional
  • Moderately Spotted Pearls – Contains a couple of visible blemishes
  • Heavily Spotted Pearls – Show obvious signs of major imperfection