Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. The mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept the mother-of-pearl bead nucleus. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the technician implants the bead and then the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms.
Not all produce a pearl; and not all the pearls are high quality. Over 10,000 pearls may be sorted before a 16 single strand of beautifully matched pearls is assembled.
Currently there is no official, industry-wide agreed upon grading scale that farmers, vendors, gem labs and retailers can employ, however the A-AAA grading system is widely used in the US and can provide an easily understood framework with which to grade the various pearl types.
Currently Tahitian and South Sea pearl farmers utilize the A-D grading scale with ‘A’ being the highest quality and ‘D’ representing pearls that are the lowest. The A-D grading scale easily converts into the A-AAA scale, with A representing the very lowest grades, and AAA representing the very best pearls.
The AAA grade represents the top 3% of all pearls harvested each year; AAA quality pearls feature top-grade luster, a very high degree of reflectivity, smooth, unblemished surfaces and visibly thick nacre.
The AAA quality akoya pearl will have a blemish rate of 95% blemish free surfaces with no deep inclusions allowable. The luster will be very sharp and crisp with reflected light sources showing very neat lines on the surface of the pearls; you should be able to see detailed facial features reflected on the surface of the pearls and the nacre will be visibly thick.
In the case of akoya pearls, pearl matching will be excellent with little to no variation in tone, luster or size throughout the necklace, and pearls will be perfectly round to the eye. The pearl industry calls these pearls “8-Way Rollers.”
For freshwater pearls, the blemish rates will be the same as that of the saltwater akoya, however the luster will be somewhat softer and have a more satin effect; the shape of the AAA quality freshwater pearl will appear round to the eye, but upon up-close inspection may show some variation- the pearls may appear very slightly off-round to slightly ovalish in shape.
AA+ quality akoya pearls feature a blemish rate of less than 10% on the total surface area of the pearl; inclusions should be very small and only visible upon up-close inspection (a distance of 2-inches or less).
The akoya pearl will be perfectly round and very well matched with little to no variation in tone, color or luster throughout the necklace. Luster is considered Very Good, with only slight satining of reflected light sources on the surface of the pearls; you should still be able to make out your face reflected on the pearl's surface.
For freshwater pearls, the blemish and luster rates are the same as that of the akoya, however the freshwater pearls will show more variation in shape and will be visibly off round to the eye.
La Mia Cara Jewelry does not carry any pearls below the AA+ quality grade, and all pearl earrings and pendants are graded AAA quality by our experienced GIA graduate in pearls.