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South Sea and Tahitian Pearl Grading

Grading South Sea and Tahitian Pearls
While there is no internationally recognized number or letter system for pearl grading, there are best-grading practices that are accepted and recognized by all professional pearl dealers within the industry. Understanding grading attributes and quality characteristics of South Sea and Tahitian pearls is imperative to properly shop and compare.

Pearl Grades Are Combinations Of Many Different Value Factors
As pearls have many differing value factors such as shape, luster, size and surface quality combining together to produce a unique gem, grading pearls can become very difficult. Although it is possible to grade each value factor individually, most purveyors of this gem rely on a simple letter-grade system.

The grading assigned by a retailer or producer is specific only to that source. In other words, grades assigned by different companies are subjective to those companies and cannot be compared with grading from different sources.

Super-fine Tahitian pearl strands

Which System Is Correct? The AAA-A System Or The A-D System?
Confusion abounds regarding the use of the A-D system (the Tahitian System) or the AAA-A system, popularized by the late Kokichi Mikimoto. While some pearl dealers swear by one method, another seller may use the other. So which is correct? The answer is simple – they both are.

As there is no International mandated system for grading pearls, nor is there an absolute alphabetical system, both systems are used interchangeably. Their use is largely based on location, but even this is a general rule of thumb, by no means absolute.

Both Systems Are Correct
In the USA both systems are often used by different pearl companies, which is considered completely acceptable if the seller makes it known what system is being used, and has an accurate representation of the quantified qualities.

In producing countries such as French Polynesia and Australia the A-D system is nearly universally used by producers of Tahitian and South Sea pearls. However, when the pearls are auctioned in Hong Kong , these same producers utilize the AAA-A system when selling to wholesalers.

Courtesy of Cultured Tahitian Pearl Grading by

A-D (Tahitian) GradingAAA-A GradingGrading Description and Criteria
Top GemGem GradeFlawless pearl with excellent luster
Pearl exhibits no inclusions or imperfections prior to setting or drilling
AAAAFlawless on at least 90% of pearl’s surface
Only 10% of pearl’s surface may exhibit slight, concentrated imperfections
Only a single deep inclusion allowable
Pearl should drill or set clean to virtually clean
Luster is very high
A/BAA+Flawless on at least 80% of pearl’s surface
Only 20% of pearl’s surface may exhibit slight, concentrated imperfections
Only one or two deep inclusions allowable
Pearl should drill or set clean to nearly clean
Luster is high to very high
BAAFlawless on at least 70% of pearl’s surface
Only 30% of pearl?s surface may exhibit slight, concentrated imperfections
Only one or two deep inclusions allowable
Pearl should drill or set nearly clean
Luster is high to very high
CA+Flawless on at least 40% of pearl’s surface
Up to 60% of pearl?s surface may exhibit slight, concentrated imperfections
Deep inclusions are limited to 10% of pearl?s surface
Luster is medium to very high
DAAt least 60% of pearl’s surface will exhibit flaws
Deep inclusions and/or white spots within inclusions on up to 20% of pearl?s surface
Luster is poor to very high

*Cultured Tahitian pearls that do not fall into a category above, or do not meet the minimum nacre depth requirements of 0.8 mm per radius, do not pass the mandatory examination of the Ministere de la Perliculture of Tahiti. Those pearls are refused for export and destroyed.

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South Sea Pearl

South Sea Pearls Defined

A South Sea pearl is pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima mollusk. They are currently cultured in areas throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, primarily in Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar.

The South Seas lie between the northern coast of Australia and the southern coast of China. These waters are the native habitat of a large oyster known as Pinctada maxima. This oyster grows up to 12 inches in diameter, and can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other saltwater pearl oysters such as the akoya.

south sea pearl
Golden south sea pearl

South Sea Pearls Come From Two Varieties Of Pearl-Producing Mollusks

There are two varieties of Pinctada maxima, the silver-lip and the gold-lip. The two are distinguished by their distinct coloration of the outer edge of the interior shell. This type of shell is also known as mother-of-pearl, and is responsible for the coloration of the cultured pearls produced, therefore the name.

Unlike the akoya pearl oyster, the South Sea pearl oyster will only accept one nucleation at a time. The oyster is nucleated when it is only about half developed, from 4.7 inches to 6.7 inches in size, or about 24 months old. Although the South Sea oyster will only handle one nucleus at a time, this oyster (like the Tahitian pearl producing Pinctada margaritifera) can be nucleated up to three times over the course of many years.

Why South Sea Pearls Grow So Large

There are four reasons South Sea pearls can grow to such large sizes, dwarfing many of their other saltwater pearl counterparts. These reasons are: the large size of the Pinctada maxima, the size of the implanted bead, the length of time the pearl is left to grow in the oyster, and the oyster’s environment.

Due to the size of the oyster, it is able to accept a large bead. The gonad of the Pinctada maxima is several times larger than that of the akoya. Because of this larger gonad, the South Sea oyster deposits nacre around the nucleus at a much quicker rate, especially in warm water, which speeds the oyster’s metabolism.

The South Seas are also extremely clean, and filled with plankton – the Pinctada maxima’s favorite food source. The clean waters and abundant food supply also speeds the nacre production. The growth period for South Sea pearls is also substantially longer than that of the akoya. Akoya pearls are harvested after only 9-16 months, where as South Sea pearls are harvested after a minimum of two years allowing for a larger size.

What Makes South Sea Pearls So Unique?

South sea pearl of Indonesia

South Sea pearls have several distinct characteristics that are unique to this gem. The nacre is unusually thick, ranging from 2 to 6 mm, compared to the 0.35 to 0.7 mm of an average akoya pearl.

South Sea pearls have a soft, satiny luster that comes from large aragonite platelets and rapidly deposited nacre due to the warm waters of the South Seas. South Sea pearls also have a subtle array of colors; typically white, silver, and golden – colors that are rare in other pearl types.

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Australian South Sea Downward Trend

Australian South Sea Market Performance for Better Quality and Affordable Pricing – As revealed by Jewelry Net Asia: 4/12/05

Australia’s South Sea pearl generation is relied upon to stay stable or abatement marginally in 2005 as a few makers lessened the quantity of clams they seeded a couple of years prior in light of the weaker market circumstance.

CEO of the biggest maker in Australia, Paspaley Pearls Pty Ltd, John Kelly, said he anticipates that generation will stay stable in 2005. “The

generation circumstance in 2005 speaks to choices made by makers a couple of years back in view of the market circumstance. Furthermore the share on incubation center shells that can be seeded in the principal activity has been static for as far back as two years and development might be through second and third tasks.”

Mr Kelly said Paspaley’s creation is moderately relentless and the organization expects little measures of development. Our concentrate keeps on being on quality creation. Makers said the cultivating circumstance is by and large steady however some littler makers are thinking that its extreme and are thinking about leaving the business. Reports show that a littler maker in the Northern Territories is offering its ranch and shell standard to another maker additionally in the NT.

Notwithstanding the general market circumstance, Australian makers have been battling with thin business edges in light of the quality of the Australian dollar against all other significant monetary standards, especially the United States dollar. Mr Kelly said the standpoint for 2005 is less hopeful due to the high trade rates. “With trade rates the way they are I figure everybody will have their heads down endeavoring to make a decent living. With the yen at 80 to the Australian dollar and a United States dollar at 78 pennies to the Australian dollar the business has turned out to be peripheral notwithstanding for the best administrators.”

General costs of South Sea pearls are steady and ascending on universal markets. In spite of the fact that the normal fare cost of a pearl in 2004 diminished by the insights, makers stated, costs of most

classes have been expanding.

Mr Kelly said he trusts business merchandise will keep on increasing in cost as a great part of the market has been centered around this segment for as long as two to

three years. “The open door for development is to fabricate a business in cleaner, better quality products that are reasonable at the present costs.”

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The future of the South Sea Pearl Industry in Australia

I have heard that the Australians are beginning to lose the fight for the South Sea pearl showcase. I have heard that the characteristics leaving Indonesia and the Philippines are getting the opportunity to be similarly in the same class as those leaving Australia, and that as a result of government confinements in Australia there is truly nothing that pearl ranchers there can do.

Does anybody have any musings on this?

This is really the perspective of many. I would need to concur too. I don’t have a considerable measure of time to post an itemized answer today (we are opening another office this week), however here is a short abstract.

Obviously one central point is the cost of working together in Australia versus Indonesia and the Philippines. Work is substantially less expensive, as are materials.

Australia is losing because of an assortment of components. The first is their out-dated standard framework. I am not going to get into this since I could most likely compose a book about it.

Another central point is Australia’s reliance on wild catch in lieu of incubation center reared clams. It has dependably been asserted that incubation facility reared Pinctada Maxima won’t create SSP’s as vast as wild catch, however this is pretty much promulgation.

Ultimately, numerous littler makers are either collapsing, or being purchased by the bigger makers. It is generally suspected that soon there may be two SSP makers in Australia. These two are attempting to keep the costs high and endeavoring to keep the regular discernment that SSP’s are amazingly uncommon. I feel that this will change soon with the approach of other substantial makers in South Asian districts.

What is the Australian quantity on wild catch? I have been messaging forward and backward with a homestead out of Indonesia that is putting forth better costs for ‘proportionate’ quality, and he is stating this is on the grounds that the statement is just 15,000 clams. This does not appear to be consistent to me, in any case. By what method can Paspaley do the kind of business they do with a 15,000 portion? They simply held a bartering and sold a bigger number of pearls than 15,000 shellfish could create in twelve harvests!

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Need Help : Pearl Price Info


I would like to ask if you have any idea about market price for each gram of these following Indonesian Pearl in Hong Kong, Japan and USA wholesale market:
1. The pearl came in lots. Various size around 7mm – 10mm and various color (golden, yellow, white, etc.)
2. Golden color pearl size around 11mm – 13mm.
3. Pink (drop) pearl size around 7mm – 8mm.
4. Pink (ring) strand around 7mm – 8mm. Strand lenght is 40 cm
I have the pictures and would like to send it to you if you like.
Many thanks, Herman (

Attached Images Attached Images


Answer :

Only somewhat more data please. How is the nature of the principal part, and is the photo the whole parcel? The cost would depend vigorously on the size and nature of the part in general. Is it evaluated A, B, C, or D? Is it a blended quality part? It seems, by all accounts, to be a blended shading parcel…

The second picture with the single pearl looks the best of the part. It is by all accounts dim and clean. Be that as it may, there is a wide distinction in cost from 11mm to 13mm. A dim 12-13mm, round, clean Golden would discount for about $600.

On the last two pictures, are these freshwater pearls? They give off an impression of being freshwater pearls, not South Sea pearls. This would, obviously, be an expansive valuation factor.


I truly value your answer. The principal parcel (Lots.jpg) has an imperfection like a spots, around 2 – 10 specks in every pearl. A portion of the dabs scattered in little/somewhat bigger zone (not scattered in all surface). As of now, the entire parcels is just 6 pearls (Lots.jpg). Herewith I appended the zoom pictures (Lots_Zoom.jpg) for your further examination.

However, I can discover more pearls with nearly a similar quality/deformity with those 6 pearls on the photograph (Lots.jpg). We can make a gathering for each shading (yellow, brilliant, white shading, and so on), estimate (7mm-8mm, 8mm-9mm, 9mm-10mm, and so forth.) and shape (round, drop, catch, and so forth.)

As to review, we used to call it review B/C. In any case, I don’t know that your standard grade is a similar standard with our own.

The second picture (Golden.jpg) is just 1 pearl (not in parcel). It has abandons in 1 territory. I connected likewise the imperfection picture (Golden_Zoom.jpg).

We additionally can show signs of improvement quality in parts for those brilliant pearls.

With respect to last 3 pictures (Drop.jpg, Pink.jpg and Pink_Zoom.jpg). Truly I don’t know is that saltwater pearl or freshwater pearl. Yet, when I got it, the merchant illuminate that those are saltwater pearl without shading.


Indeed, the pearls have all the earmarks of being B/C, however in the wake of taking a gander at the darker brilliant pearl also it gives off an impression of being close to an indistinguishable surface review from I see rings (yet it could simply be the photo).

In that review if the part were blended it would be extremely hard to cost. Some are darker and more significant, and it appears just as the parcel is quality-blended too. I would assume it might offer discount for about $50 per pearl. The brilliant pearl would most likely go as high as $300, or significantly higher if the surface is a little cleaner that it looks in the photo.

With respect to the last strand, this appears as though it is positively a freshwater neckband. It looks literally nothing like an Akoya strand. With the circles the strand would most likely discount for about $10 per strand in China.

I trust I have been of assistance. Don’t hesitate to send me a private message too with more data.