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The Wide World of Pearls, Our 65th Issue: How To Tell White Pearls Apart 🔎



Pearls of Joy Pearl Quote of the Week:    "Impressions are like pearls; ideas are like the string that turns the pearls into a necklace. The string is invisible, but it is not dispensable and cannot be broken." -  Mu Xin


Eye Candy

Weekly Eye Candy Spotlight: Electric White Freshwater Souffle Pearls



Found while hunting for Freshwater Soufflé pearls at the Hong Kong Jewellery Show, these white Soufflé pearls display positively electric luster - about 220 volts worth!


You Ask ...We Answer.

How to Tell White Pearl Types Apart



How To Tell White Pearl Types Apart

When shopping for white cultured pearl jewelry, we field a LOT of questions about what are the differences between each pearl type, what distinguishes each from the other, and what makes one pearl type more desirable over the others. 

So we decided to put together the quick White Pearl Guide so you can tell at a glance which pearls are which, and which pearl type you should buy. There are 3 main white pearl types which are Japanese AkoyaFreshwater pearls from China and White South Sea pearls from Australia.

There are 4 major areas you should be evaluating when deciding which pearl type you've got. They are:

  • Luster
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Blemish Types

So let's dive in and examine the various white pearl types! First up: 

Akoya Pearls

Telling White Pearls Apart: Akoya Pearls Luster


Akoya Pearl Luster

Akoya pearls are known for their mirror-like, "ball-bearing" luster. These little gems are highly reflective, and objects viewed in their surfaces are highly to very highly detailed ... you should be able to recognize your entire face!

Lower qualities like AA+ and below have less distinct levels of reflectivity, but that's when other quality factors come into play when determining whether a pearl is an Akoya or not. Hanadama Quality Akoya pearls will appear like the pearls pictured above - with very crisp, nicely detailed reflections and little to no blurring of reflected light sources.


Telling White Pearls Apart: Akoya Pearls Shape


Akoya Pearl Shapes

In the pearl world, Akoya pearls are known as "Eight Way Rollers" meaning that they're so PERFECTLY round that they roll evenly in all eight directions when placed on a flat surface. Baroque Akoya pearls exist too of course, but the vast, vast majority of Akoya pearls you'll encounter today are perfectly round and excellently matched. 


Telling White Pearls Apart: Akoya Pearls Blemishes


Akoya Pearl Blemishes

Akoya pearl blemishes are extremely distinct and easily recognizable once you know what to look for. We found this strand online and is for example purposes only - note that Pearls of Joy does not sell pearls of this quality. 

Akoya pearl blemishes include:

  • Tiny pin prick holes in the nacre
  • Nacre wrinkling 
  • Blinking (where the internal bead nucleus shows through the nacre)
  • White "chalky" spots
  • Flat areas - these look like little circular flat spots, like someone pressed a dime onto the surface of the pearl. 


Freshwater Pearls


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White Freshwater Pearls Luster


Freshwater Pearl Luster

Freshwater pearls have distinctly softer, more "satiny" luster than that of the saltwater Akoya pearl. You'll notice that objects reflected in the pearl's surfaces are pretty blurry and difficult to recognize (unless we're talking AAAA/Gem Grade Freshwater pearls! Those get really close to Akoya pearl luster.). Instead of crisp, sharp edges of reflected light sources, you'll notice softly blurring edges and an overall softer, more subtle glow to these pearls versus the Akoya's bright, glossy shine. 


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White Freshwater Pearls Shapes


Freshwater Pearl Shapes

Freshwater pearls have a wide range of shapes, from heavily free-form baroque pearls to pretty drop shapes to nearly perfectly round, which are becoming more prevalent in the jewelry world as cultivation techniques continue to improve.

That said, the vast majority of Freshwater pearls that you'll come across today are going to appear slightly off-round to distinctly ovalish and egg-shaped ... these shapes are very easy to spot, and are very common to the Freshwater pearl type. 


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White Freshwater Pearls Blemishes


Freshwater Pearl Blemishes

Freshwater pearls have fairly distinct blemish types which makes these pearls easy to recognize - especially when you combine this attribute with shape and luster! Freshwater pearl inclusions will usually include:

  • Dull, chalky rings
  • Dents
  • Ridges
  • Bumpy accumulations of nacre
  • Pin Holes followed by white streaks


White South Sea Pearls


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White South Sea Pearls Luster


White South Sea Pearl Luster

Like Freshwater pearls, White South Sea pearls often display what people call "satiny" luster. It's best described as soft, subtly glowing, with fair to near-excellent rate of reflectivity ... you should be able to see the shape of your face and some of the more prominent features of your face reflected in the surfaces, but fine details not so much. 

Reflected light sources will not be very sharp, but slightly blurred around the edges and you'll notice the light spots diffusing on the edges. 


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White South Sea Pearls Shapes


White South Sea Pearl Shapes

White South Sea pearls can be true round (most rare), drop-shaped or barrel-shaped, baroque (most prevalent), circled baroque and free-form baroque shapes.

Often, baroque-shaped White South Sea pearls have pronounced levels of luster and rainbow orient, which is that iridescent soap-bubble effect that appears to float on the surface.

When using shape to determine if a pearl type is a White South Sea pearl, take into account the pearl's SIZE.

White South Sea pearls are one of the largest pearl types in the world, and generally measure anywhere from 8-9 mm up through 15-16 mm, and sometimes larger. Akoya and Freshwater pearls are usually smaller, ranging in size from 5-6 mm up through 9-10 mm or so; so if the pearls you are evaluating are larger than 9 mm (combined with other attributes), it's a very good chance that they are White South Sea! 


 Telling White Pearls Apart: White South Sea Pearls Blemishes


White South Sea Pearl Blemishes

White South Sea pearls often feature its own distinct blemish types, but do share some similarities with Freshwater and Akoya pearls ... namely tiny pin pricks and occasionally some whitish chalky spots. Other blemishes to note are:

  • Streaks in the nacre
  • Large divots
  • Conchiolin showing through (brownish substance in between nacre layers)
  • Folds in the nacre
  • Bulleting or plating texture on the pearl surface (note this is usually an indication of thick nacre layers and does not usually count as blemishes.). 


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 Weekly Featured Pearl Spotlight: White South Sea Baroque Pearl Necklace


White South Sea Baroque Pearl Necklace, 9-11mm

When it comes to baroque pearls, Australian White South Sea pearls are the most unique by far. Treasured for their natural look, Australian baroque pearls are the rarest of the baroque pearls in the South Sea, this 9-11mm pearl necklace is no exception.

A gorgeous and exquisite strand compiled of brilliant white South Sea pearls, all baroque shaped with gorgeous luster. The necklace comes affixed with an elegant 18K white gold ball clasp. Premium clasps are also available at checkout. Included with this item is a complementary pearl care kit, giving you the ability to maintain this necklace's elegant beauty for years to come.


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