Loose Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls (usually from China, but increasingly also from Vietnam and the Philippines), are popular for their low cost and flexibility when used in jewellery design. Most freshwater pearls are irregular shaped which has to do with the method of cultivation in the mollusc. Most are also less than 8-9mm in diameter as the method of culturing in the past has been to seed up to 25 pearls per oyster without using a core or "nucleus". Recently pearl farmers in China have begun to experiment with using a nucleus (usually only used in Japanese, Tahitian and South Seas oysters) to produce larger pearls.

The pearl chart and prices below only relate to high quality, non-nucleated, natural-coloured freshwater pearls. Round or semi-baroque freshwater pearls which have a diameter of 10mm+ are regarded as rare and are priced accordingly. Nevertheless good quality freshwater pearls represent excellent value for money.

Price Chart for Loose Freshwater Pearls

The chart lists the usual retail price of round freshwater pearls. For Semi-baroque (drop, button, circle) pearls deduct 25% and for Baroque pearls deduct 50% of the stated price.

Below you find the average retail prices for good quality freshwater pearls before discount. Please take another 33% off all the prices below to arrive at your final price.

When assessing the value of a pearl the following factors need to be considered:

1. Shape: Pearl shapes fall three main categories: Round, Semi-baroque and Baroque. Round pearls allow for <0.2mm distortion i.e. semi-round. Semi-baroque are non-round pearls but are symettrical and have an even surface. They come in various shapes, including teardrop, pear, button and circled. Baroque pearls are an irregular shape and sometimes uneven surface.

Generally speaking round pearls are 25% more valuable than semi-baroque pearls and 50% more valuable than baroque pearls.

2. Size: Pearl prices tend to increase for each millimetre in diameter. Large pearls of 16mm+ are considered rare and extremely valuable.

3. Lustre and Iridescence: Lustre is the play of light off the surface of the pearl and iridescence is the play of light emanating from the depth of the pearl. A pearl with a high lustre and iridescence is seen by most people as more desirable but may not necessarily affect the value of the pearl.

4. Colour: Pearls can exhibit a hugh range of colours depending on the oyster of origin. Colour is generally a personal decision and can depend on the hair and skin colour of the wearer - ligher shade colours often suit Anglo-Saxons better and darker colours people with olive skin. In Tahiti the colour "peacock green" is seen as very desirable whereas in Australia a silver white pearl with pink or blue undertones is much prized.

Cultured pearls come in various shapes, including round, semi-round, baroque (irregular shape), semi-baroque (drop, button, oval or pearl shapes), circled and keshi (small irregular shaped pearls with no nucleus). They are graded from Gem quality (perfect) through A, B, C and D grades.

5. Surface Quality: Generally the "cleaner" the surface of the pearl the more valuable it is.
Tiare Black Pearl uses the Tahitian grading system (combined with pearl size and shape) for pricing all its pearls:

Gem Quality

Flawless pearl. Excellent lustre.

Category A

Pearl without imperfections on at least 90% of its surface. On the 10% remaining the pearl may exhibit small concentrated flaws and one deep imperfection at most. Minimum very good lustre.

Category B

Pearl without imperfections on at least 70% of its surface. On the 30% remaining the pearl may exhibit slight concentrated flaws and two imperfections at most. Minimum good lustre.

Category C

Pearl without imperfections on at least 40% of its surface. On the 60% remaining the pearl may present slight concentrated flaws and 10% deep imperfections at most. Minimum average lustre.

Category D

Pearl with slight imperfections on over 60% of its surface with 20% deep imperfections and/or white spots at most. Minimum weak lustre.