Baszanger’s Pearl Mapping…
Understanding the world of pearls with a complete comprehensive guide in 7 easy steps
How to shop for pearls or pearl jewelry?
Unlike other gems, pearls are unique because of their organic origins. According to pearl specialists and based on the GIA’s criteria (Gemological Institute of America) pearls are evaluated on 7 factors: size, shape, color, luster, surface, nacre and matching.
South Sea pearls (which can be found in white and gold colors) and Tahitian pearls (also called black pearls, which range of colors goes from light to dark gray, with greenish, pinkish, or blueish hues) are considered the most precious ones. There is a direct connection between the quality of the nacre and the water, the temperature and the stability of the sea.
Oysters set in the warmer waters of Australia, Tahiti, Philippines and Indonesia produce thicker layers of nacre. Saltwater pearls are therefore more valuable than freshwater or any other kind of pearls.
Another very well known salt water pearl is the Japanese Akoya (white with overtones of pink and cream).
These pearls represent the “classical pearl necklace” and cannot be mistaken with South Sea pearls because of their smaller diameter.
Fresh water pearls
Massively produced in rivers and lakes, these pearls don’t have a nucleus, are more fragile and have a poorer mother of pearl quality. Fresh water pearls are generally used in costume jewelry, but will not last over time.
Baszanger works exclusively with the most prestigious salt water pearls. Baszanger honors pearls in their beauty and diversity, by selecting all kinds of shapes – round, drop or baroque, under the condition that they meet the essential criteria of quality to ensure their legacy.
Natural pearls versus cultured pearls
Nowadays, 98% of pearl production is cultured. Natural pearls (randomly found at the bottom of the seas) are very rare. To obtain the same beauty as a natural pearl, one needs to select the highest quality.
Cultured pearls started in the early 1900. Kokichi Mikimoto, a Japanese trader, claimed to be the inventor. But the Chinese were using similar techniques.
In a natural habitat, oysters produce nacre as a defense mechanism: if a piece of shell or any hard material enters the mollusk and gets hooked to its flesh, the oyster might expel the intruder. If not, it will produce layers of nacre to protect itself. Eventually, this process sometimes leads to the formation a pearl.
When it comes to cultured pearls, the process is the same, but provoked by human science: a little bead (called nucleus) is surgically introduced in the oyster. The mollusks are then placed under water to be farmed for two to four years, until the formation of a pearl. The pearl quality and therefore longevity, is directly related to the duration of the cultivation process. Although this is induced by human stimulation, one can never be certain of the outcome until the opening of the oyster. The majority of the time, mollusks produce altered shapes, and only sometimes a perfectly shaped pearl. This explains the rarity of a high-quality pearl, and therefore its value.
7 evaluation factors for pearls :
1. Size: pearls are measured in milimeters. South Sea pearls can reach 15mm in diameter, while Japanese Akoya pearls rarely go over 11mm.
2. Shape: pearls come in different shapes, they can be round, oval, drop shaped and baroque. Round pearls are more valuable, because rare. Some drops with perfect dimensions can be more expensive than round pearls. Baroque pearls have irregular shapes and can be circled. While being “imperfect” it is their size and luster that determine the value. Their beauty lies in these very unique shapes.
3. Color: color can affect value because some are rarer than others. Each pearl has a first defined basic color and a secondary color (usually pinkish, greenish, silver etc.). The more valuable Japanese white pearls are those with a rosé tint. For Tahitian pearls, it is those that have a greenish or pinkish hue. It is important to choose your pearls according to your carnation, hair and personal taste.
4. Luster: luster is the special light or reflection that emanates from the pearl, adding beauty to the color.
5. Surface: when the surface of a pearl is smooth and spotless, it tends towards perfection. Nonetheless, baroque pearls characterized by their imperfections can truly be beautiful because of their distinctive allure.
6. Nacre: nacre (also called mother of pearl) is made of calcium carbonate. The thickness of a pearl’s nacre is an essential factor, as it determines its beauty and longevity. The prismatic effect on the pearl called orient is the desired outcome of sufficient layers of mother of pearl.
7. Matching: as each pearl is unique, finding the perfect match requires a trained eye. Precision of the matching (called “the make”) affects the value of pearl jewelry.