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Tips for Evaluating Worth and Quality

February 05, 2001|HARTFORD COURANT

Just as a diamond is evaluated by the four Cs (color, clarity, cut and carat), a pearl is judged by various characteristics that determine its quality, beauty and value. Here are some guidelines from the Cultured Pearl Information Center on choosing pearls:

* Luster: Of all the qualities used to evaluate a pearl, luster is the most important. Luster is a combination of surface brilliance and a deep-seated glow. The luster of a good pearl should be bright, not dull, and you should be able to see your reflection clearly on the surface. Dull, white, chalky pearls indicate low quality.

* Surface: The cleaner the surface, the more valuable the pearl. Cleanliness refers to the absence of disfiguring spots, bumps or cracks. The richer the luster and more opalescent the surface, the more desirable the pearl.

* Shape: Because cultured pearls are grown by oysters in nature, it is very rare to find a perfectly round pearl. Therefore, the rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is. Irregular, asymmetrical pearls are called Baroque pearls and have their own appeal for the rich play of light reflected from their uneven surface.

* Color: Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors, from rose to black. While picking a color is really a matter of personal preference, rose or silver-white pearls tend to look best on fair skin; cream and gold-toned pearls are flattering to darker complexions.

* Size: Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can range from 1-millimeter seed pearls to 20 millimeters for big South Sea pearls. The larger the pearl--other factors being equal--the more valuable it will be. The average pearl sold is usually between 7 and 7 1/2 millimeters.

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