Pits, Chips and Bumps on the Surface

Look closely at this image of these beautiful baroque Tahitian pearls and it is possible to see several small blemishes and imperfections on the surface of the pearl. Although fake pearls are typically very smooth and artificially perfect, a real pearl may often have irregularities such as pits, chips, bumps and scratches on its surface.

Both natural and cultured pearls are formed by a mussel or oyster over months and even years. Because of this slow process, it is rare for the surface of a pearl to be perfectly flawless and instead it can be quite normal for pearls to have blemishes on their surface. Baroque Tahitian pearls such as these pictured are loved for their individual beauty. Some pearls such as colourful freshwater Kasumi pearls from Japan are known for their distinctive wrinkles on their surface.

The surface of a pearl can range from being spotless to being very heavily blemished. Tiny spots of conchiolin or aragonite, two components of a pearl's nacre, can be minor and may even add character to the gem. Other flaws such as cracks, patches of thin nacre or a strong discolouration of the pearl surface are best avoided. We are very careful to select pearls that are not disfigured in this way or where their longevity may be in question.

Due to their rarity in any harvest, the fewer and smaller the flaws that a pearl has, the more valuable a perfect pearl will typically be. When buying pearls, it can be easy to focus on minor blemishes on a pearl's surface and to ignore other important factors such as lustre. Often small blemishes can also be hidden from view by the jeweller in the setting or the drill hole.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) established one of the leading gemological systems for grading the quality of pearls according to 7 key criteria: size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality and matching.

To classify the condition of the surface of a real pearl, an expert will assess and grade the surface of the majority of pearls as:

  1. Clean – Pearls are blemish-free or contain minute surface characteristics
  2. Lightly Spotted – Pearls show minor surface irregularities
  3. Moderately Spotted – Pearls show noticeable surface characteristics
  4. Heavily Spotted – Pearls show obvious surface irregularities

As well as having many years of experience with pearls, the team at Winterson is trained in pearl grading by the GIA. A pearl's surface is one of the value factors that we use to describe the pearl jewellery at Winterson. The baroque Tahitian pearl necklace pictured in this image has a surface grading of Clean to Lightly Spotted and this is fully disclosed on the Winterson website.

If you would like to know more about the quality of our pearls, or how we grade them, please do contact us.