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Pearl Luster
Pearl Price factors
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Pearl brilliance, the shine and glow of a pearl; The greater and deeper the luster, the more valuable the pearl. Pearls with a high luster display strong and sharp light reflections and a good contrast between the bright and darker areas of the pearl. Pearls with low luster look milky, chalky and dull. Select pearls that have a good luster.

"PEARLS-HALF OFF!" Does this indicate a bargain? Who knows? It might even mean "Nacre-Half Off." No matter what their price, pearls aren't much of a bargain if they're dull-looking or their nacre (pearl coating, pronounced NAY-ker) peels away.

Normally thin nacre means low luster, but there are thin-nacre pearls with good luster and thick¬nacre pearls with low luster. Consequently, it's best to treat luster and nacre thickness as two separate value factors.

What is Pearl Luster

The noted gemologist, Robert Webster, defines luster as the surface brilliancy of a gemstone, which depends on the quality and quantity of the reflected light. When the term "luster" is applied to pearls, it tends to have a broader meaning. It also refers to the light reflected off the internal layers of nacre. In other words, a lustrous pearl has more than just a shiny, reflective surface. It also has a glow from within.

Compare, for example, the pearl to a highly polished gold bead. The gold bead will usually have sharper surface reflections than the pearl, but that doesn't mean it's more lustrous. In fact, it's more conventional to describe gold as shiny, bright or metallic. Brilliant pearls, on the other hand, are more frequently termed lustrous.

Pearls with a very high luster will generally show the following characteristics when viewed under a bare light with the naked eye.

• Strong light reflections
• Sharp light reflections
• A good contrast between the bright and darker areas of the pearl

(Many pearl experts would also list iridescence as a characteristic because lustrous pearls not only reflect light, they break it up into different colors. On round pearls the iridescence tends to be very subtle, and a pinkish tone may result. On high luster baroque pearls, you may see flashes of rainbow colors. Since iridescence is a color phenomenon, this book has it listed as a quality factor in the chapter on color.)

The evaluation of luster will be discussed in a later section. But first, it's helpful to know why pearls vary in luster.

What Determines Luster

 The luster of a pearl depends on the quality of the nacre-its transparency, smoothness and overall thickness as well as the thickness of each of the microscopic layers of nacre. Under an electron microscope, the nacre crystals of lustrous pearls have a strong hexagonal form and are regularly distributed,whereas the crystals forming the nacre of lifeless pearls lack a clear outline, are thinly scattered or are irregularly deposited.

The quality of the nacre, and in turn the luster, is affected by a variety of factors such as:

• Cultivation techniques used
• Cultivation place
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