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How To Grade Akoya Pearls

Thousands of akoya pearls must be sorted to match one strand

Probably the single most important thing to understand when learning about Pearl Grading in order to make an educated purchase decision is this: it is impossible to compare grades and grading systems from one company to another.

Unlike diamond grading, there is no standardized grading system for pearls. Every company in the world that grades and sells pearls is using a system that they themselves devised and created. Every system is subjective and every system is unique. We know with certainty, for example, that our AA+ graded akoya pearls have better luster, surface and color than another online sellers' AAAA pearls exhibit. This is the unfortunate result of no standardized, universal grading system.

For more than a decade, we’ve imported akoya pearls from just two sources in Japan. This is the only way to guarantee the pearls have grown for two full seasons – a farming technique known as koshimono. This is important because it directly affects the nacre thickness, or the durability of akoya pearls. You want your pearls to last a lifetime, and you want to be able to pass them down from generation to generation. Two seasons of growth guarantees you will.

The following is the grading system we adhere to for akoya pearls.

Pearl Grade

Description

Hanadama

Hanadama is the Japanese word for spherical flower and is the grade assigned to akoya pearls considered "extra fine" by a pearl grading laboratory in Japan. One important thing to note is that there is a range of quality that is considered hanadama. For example, our AAA could easily pass certification. We guarantee our hanadama to be the finest available as we only submit the finest to be certified.

Each hanadama-grade strand of akoya pearls must be accompanied by an individual, numbered certificate from the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japan to be sold as "hanadama grade."

  • Surface exhibits minimal to no visible blemishes*
  • Shape is perfect round
  • Luster is very strong
  • Pearl exhibits mirror reflection
  • Nacre determined by optical fiber to be greater than 0.4 mm per radius
  • Excellent matching

AAA

  • 98-100% of pearl's surface is free of visible blemishes
  • Shape is perfect round
  • Luster is strong to very strong
  • Pearl exhibits sharp reflection
  • Nacre is visibly thick
  • Excellent matching

AA+

  • 95-100% of pearl's surface is free of visible blemishes
  • Shape is perfect round
  • Luster is good to strong
  • Pearl exhibits good to sharp reflection
  • Nacre is visibly thick
  • Matching is good to excellent

AA

  • 80-100% of pearl's surface is free of visible blemishes
  • Shape is perfect round
  • Luster is good to medium
  • Pearl exhibits good to medium reflection
  • Nacre depth is medium
  • Matching is good to excellent

A

  • 70-80% of pearl's surface is free of visible blemishes
  • Shape is round to near round
  • Luster is poor to medium (chalky appearance)
  • Pearl exhibits good to medium reflection
  • Nacre depth is thin
  • Matching is fair to excellent

*The Pearl Science Laboratory follows the laws set forth by the FTC that it is considered unfair to describe cultured pearls as "flawless" because no pearls can pass perfect examination under a 10x magnfication. Although you can't see it, the surface of a pearl is textured. For that reason, all certificates will state "very slight" in the blemishing category.

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