The Problem with Pearl Grading

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I think there is a problem with pearl grading. 


There, I said it. Everywhere you go, everyone loves to tell you about their AAA++++ triple star pearls. Except for me. I will tell you about the remote corners of China with not an English speaker in sight. I will tell you about a full day of travel through the islands of the Philippines. I will tell you about the beauty, the people, the water. I will tell you about families and ocean life and maybe I will tell you about following that sea turtle swimming through the water. I can tell you about the value in what you are buying. I can tell you about the years of love and labor that went into your pearls. But, I will not tell you about a bunch of letters that, in fact, do not tell you anything!

the problem with pearl grading

Imagine you are attempting to classify an item of value based on seven different factors. Some of these factors are pretty easy to measure and some of these factors are entirely subjective. Once you give this item an overall classification you realize that your classification can not be supported by anyone else. This is your classification alone. Usually this value is based on your experience and your current inventory. The moment you take your classification to another person or business, they will offer a different classification. This is how it is with pearls and this is why I have a problem with pearl grading.


When I first traveled to China and worked with pearl suppliers, I would ask to see their AAA pearls and they were pretty! However, sometimes the luster on their AA pearls was actually better even though the AAA pearl were rounder. Sometimes the color of their A pearls was fantastic even though the surface quality was poor. I soon realized, it is not enough to simply ask for the best. I had to find the best and to find them I could not limit myself to another person’s subjective classifications. So, I decided which qualities I thought made a truly gorgeous pearl. And now I search for those. By the way, I believe luster is a must with pearls. But, I also believe the source of the pearls are important. The water is important, the livelihood of the people harvesting the pearls is pretty darn important too! So, I offer gorgeous pearls without the problem of pearl grading.


My dear friend who owns the pearl farm in French Polynesia finished harvesting pearls this week and he sent us nine strands of his best pearls. I posted these on Facebook and was immediately asked, “What is the grading of these pearls?” and I was stumped with how to answer. What is the grading of these Tahitian pearl strands? Here is my best attempt…

tahitian black pearl in a shell by The Pearl Girls

These Tahitian pearls are sourced directly from a small, family run Tahitian pearl farm on the beautiful island of Ahe. These pearl farmers have altered their farming habits to be most beneficial to their sea life and to the environment of the local people. This Tahitian pearl farmer typically sells his goods to a trader who then auctions his pearls or sells them to wholesalers resulting in an extremely high markup by the time they are offered to the consumer. He also has opted to sell them to me. The pearls themselves are a fantastic blend of natural black, gray and silver colors, all natural from their healthy black-lipped oysters. These pearls are fromed in at least eighteen months, sometimes longer. They are tested for nacre thickness. They are heartbreakingly beautiful, well cared for, and they are probably the best value you can get for the money.

After these pearls are imported, they are strung and knotted by our highly trained staff of local women and mammas. They take advantage of our flexible, well-paying employment and (soon to launch!) on-site childcare.

The pearls are packaged with care and shipped to you under our guarantee. That is our grading, that is our worth.

I hope you understand the problems with pearl grading. As always, feel free to comment below or email me with questions!



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