Each Pearl is Unique
 
There is no one official worldwide standard to grading pearls although various systems exist. That is why Sophanie has chosen to adopt the Gemological Institute of America’s seven pearl Value Factors under their Pearl Description System, which are as follows:
 
Size, Shape, Colour, Lustre, Surface Quality, Nacre Quality, Matching
 
1. Size:
 
Cultured pearls are sold in millimetre sizes. The diameter of a pearl is measured at right angles to the drill hole. Freshwater pearls range in size from 4mm to 11mm. However there will always be some exceptions to the rule and as a general guide the larger the pearl the higher the price (providing all the other factors are equal).
 
2. Shape:
 
When China first began producing cultured freshwater pearls using modern nucleation methods in the late 1960s and early 1970s the pearls were small, rice shaped and farmed in bulk. However in more recent years the emphasis has been on quality with the aim of producing high calibre round or near round pearls. These pearls account for only 2% of all the freshwater pearls farmed; therefore commanding a higher price, particularly if they are larger in size. The majority of cultured freshwater pearls are seen as being symmetrical with oval, drop or button shapes (60%). The baroque and semi baroque shapes account for the remaining 38% of the pearls. With the wide variety of shapes Chinese cultured freshwater pearls lend themselves very well to fashionable costume jewellery.
 
3. Colour:
 
When one thinks of pearls one pictures the classic white colour but cultured freshwater pearls come in a wide spectrum of body colour. 
 
Body colour is the colour one sees on the outside rim of the pearl. In other words the main colour of the pearl. Overtone is the hint of colour that appears over the body colour of the pearl. This can be either rosé, blue or green in freshwater pearls. Orient is the shimmering rainbow hue affect. The main colours that one can find in cultured freshwater pearls are:
 
White
Cream
Yellow
Orange - (We have chosen to adopt the trade name of apricot or pale apricot depending on the saturation of the colour)
Pink - (This can vary from a very pale pink to dark pink almost mauve.)
Purple - (The purple body colour can look more blue or more green dependent on the overtones present. We have therefore separated out the strands that appear to be more green and refer to them as green rather than by the correct terminology of purple with green overtone.)  The purple colours that appear in our collection are of a lavender blue hue rather than a brilliant purple.  Jewellery featuring blue pearls means that the pearls have been dyed to give them that specific colour.
 
Most pearls in our collection fall into the above categories. However pearls can be dyed after harvesting. It is generally accepted that the black freshwater pearls are dyed as are the chocolate brown ones and these do appear in our collection. They still take on the appearance of being natural rather than artificial and are extremely popular.
 
A variety of bright colours can be used to dye the baroque and semi baroque shaped cultured freshwater pearls as this means they can be used in many different ways in fashionable costume jewellery. When we definitely know that a pearl has been dyed we will state this.  We have tried to show the colour of the pearls as clearly as possible through the photographs but allowances should be made for the effects of the light as it is reflected back through the lustre.  Although the pearls are cultured pearls they are still a natural product and there may be slight variations in colour from time to time.
 
4. Lustre:
 
The most important value factor in judging the beauty of a pearl is lustre. Lustre is the result of the way the light is absorbed and reflected by the layers of aragonite crystal platelets that make up the pearl.
 
Following the GIA’s recommendations the categories for assessing lustre are as follows:
 
Excellent – the reflections are brilliant and clearly defined.
Good – The reflections are brilliant, but less sharp and the pearl may have a more soft, satiny appearance round the edges.
Fair – This is when the reflections are considered “weak, hazy and blurred.”
Poor – The pearl appears much more opaque, dense, cloudy and chalky.
 
It is the Akoya saltwater pearls that have the really bright, almost mirror like gloss to them. Other pearls will have a more soft or satin like lustre.
 
 5. Surface Quality:
 
Pearls are considered to be organic gems. Although these freshwater pearls are cultured pearls they are still a natural product, because after the nucleation, (the intervention by man to insert the tissue to encourage the growth of a pearl), the way the pearl then develops is entirely natural.
 
The surface quality of a pearl is going to be affected by the way it has grown and, therefore, has its own natural surface characteristics. The GIA’s Pearl Description system divides these characteristics into four classifications:
 
Clean – Blemish free. This means that the pearl does have very minor surface characteristics that are very difficult to see and would need a trained eye to identify them.
 
Lightly Blemished – Pearls are classified as being lightly blemished when they show minor surface irregularities on closer inspection. It reminds one that this is a natural organic product and is a very acceptable classification.
 
Moderately Blemished – Here the pearls show noticeable surface characteristics. But dependent on their nature, such as a wrinkle or a bump and dependent on the shape of the pearl, baroque or semi baroque these may add to the overall appearance and character of the pearl.
 
Heavily blemished – This is when the pearls will show very obvious surface characteristics and irregularities. The durability of the pearl may also be compromised.
 
A completely “clean” strand of pearls is quite rare and this fact would therefore significantly influence the price.
 
6. Nacre Quality:
 
Freshwater pearls are generally much thicker in nacre as they are tissue nucleated rather than bead nucleated. Without formally X-raying a pearl or wasting it by cutting it in half the GIA have come up with three categories by which one can judge the nacre quality of a pearl for oneself.
 
Acceptable – One cannot see the nucleus of the pearl, however if one rolls the strand one may be able to detect a slight blink or flickering of light and dark, which is an indication of the pearl's nucleus. There is no chalky appearance to the pearl.
 
Nucleus Visible - The category speaks for itself, as on rotating the pearls there will be much more evidence of blinking and the nucleus is clearly evident through the nacre.
 
Chalky Appearance - Again the category speaks for itself. The pearl does indeed have a chalky appearance. It is opaque or cloudy.
 
7. Matching:
 
If each pearl is unique then it means that each piece of jewellery is unique too. It is not manmade it is a natural product. Matching is important in a strand or with a pair of earrings. This is when the other value factors all come into play to balance the overall effect of the piece of jewellery. The three categories are Excellent, Good and Fair.
 
The main thing to remember is that when one is buying over the Internet the only chance to really see what one is getting is when one actually receives the product. We offer a 30-day returns policy so if for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with the product you can return it to us for a full refund.