Type, Shape, Luster, Smoothness, Color & Size
These are the attributes that determine the value of quality pearl jewelry. But, since the pearl is an organic gem created by living creatures, there are variations in quality by large margins. Some of them influence the final price of an individual pearl, but some (when meticulously sorted and matched in unique designs) can be a matter of personal taste or fashion.
Freshwater or saltwater, Akoya or South Seas, or perhaps some other type, be sure to fully understand what kind of pearl you are buying. The reputation of the seller is everything because the quality of freshwater pearls has become so exquisite, they may be presented as saltwater, at 10 times the price.
Also affecting the price is the degree of difficulty associated with pearl farming. Some types of pearls are more difficult to harvest, some are rare or may take longer to grow, both of which increases the price.
This not only affects the quality of a pearl, but also the quality of the piece of jewelry made with it. Perfectly spherical pearls are most rare, and therefore extremely rare. However, as pearls may take many unusual shapes, they can be fashioned into designs that are as unique and beautiful as nature itself.
The radiance of a pearl is the luster. The greater the luster, the greater the value. High luster gives almost mirror-like reflections the ability to reflect things around it. If the luster is high, you should be able to see your own reflection in a pearl. The sharper the reflection, the better, while the low quality pearl has weak luster.
Also affecting the price of the pearl is the smoothness of the surface. Smooth and clean, without bumps, scratches, fractions, spots and other unpleasant details represent the highest quality pearls.
The most subjective of all the criteria since certain colors may not appeal to some customers due to personal taste. However, pearl colors cover a wide spectrum of colors ranging from black to white, light brown, pink, gray (silver), yellow (gold), green, blue and whatever color natures decides to produce. What makes a piece of jewelry valuable is how perfectly matched the color (as well as shape, size and luster) is with other pearls of the same piece.
The larger the size of pearl, the more valuable it is. However, this is in relative terms, because a pearl’s value is also affected by the parameters listed above.