When you are shopping for pearl jewelry, perhaps the most important thing to keep an eye on is the amount of luster the pearl has. Almost anyone can recognize pearl luster when they see it, but many people are not able to define what they are looking for when they are seeking beautiful pearls.
What Is Pearl Luster?
Luster is the shine that makes a pearl really stand out. It’s what makes a real pearl differ from an imitation pearl. It’s that beautiful shine that reflects the light off the surface of the gem and makes it possible to see your own reflection in the pearl.
Generally, the more luster that a pearl has, the more valuable it is.
Overall, you’ll find that saltwater pearls are more lustrous than freshwater pearls. Of course, freshwater pearls can have a beautiful luster, and saltwater pearls can be dim, but this is a good rule of thumb to go by. Pearls without very much luster will appear dim, chalky, and even dusty, compared to the brilliant shine of a pearl with high luster.
How Is Luster Formed?
The luster of a pearl comes from the nacre that it is coated in. When a pearl is formed, it happens because an irritant finds its way inside of a mollusk, which then coats the irritant with the same substance that covers the inside of its shell, which is nacre. Over the course of years, the irritant builds up enough coats of nacre that it becomes a beautiful pearl. Typically, the more nacre that has been deposited on a pearl, the more lustrous that it will be.
High luster pearls will appear bright no matter what kind of light they are under. They will easily reflect surrounding objects. While most pearls with a thick nacre have high luster, this is not always true – that’s because some pearls do not secrete their nacre in perfect patterns.
A pearl with a thin nacre, on the other hand, will have a low luster. They will appear to have pearl luster dust – where the surface appears to be chalky and rough.
In order to sort pearls into gradations of luster, people first sort them into broad categories and slowly get more specific by comparing them to both other pearls and to the ideal.
If you are looking to purchase fine pearl jewelry, you will likely want to find pieces that have a high luster. Just keep in mind that the more lustrous the pearls, the more valuable (and expensive) they will be.