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The fewer and smaller the flaws, the more valuable the pearl. Blemishes on single pearls tend to be more obvious and less acceptable than those on strands. It's normal for pearl strands to have some flaws.

Natural pearls normally have more flaws than cultured Japanese Akoya pearls. That's because they' ve been in
the oyster longer and have had more time to develop blemishes. Cultured pearls from the South Seas are also more likely to have flaws than Akoyas, which have a thinner nacre coating.

Imagine that you're buying a bouquet of roses for a special friend. If you were to look closely at each rose, you would probably notice some brown spots, small holes or torn edges. Yet it's doubtful that any of these flaws would keep you from getting the bouquet. You would select it on the basis of its overall attractiveness.

However, if you were buying just one rose for somebody, you would most likely examine it more closely and expect it to have fewer flaws than the roses in a bouquet. Judging pearls is much the same. Our standards of perfection for a single pearl are normally higher than for a strand. But whether we're dealing with roses or pearls, we should expect nature to leave some sort of autograph.

When discussing flaws in diamonds or colored gems, the jewelry trade uses the term clarity. This refers to the degree to which a stone is flawed. In the pearl industry, a variety of terms is used. For example:

Blenish Spotting
Cleanliness or Cleanness Surface quality
Complexion Surface appearance
Flawlessness Surface perfection
Purity Texture

In the USA, surface quality is the term most frequently used to denote pearl clarity. There are also a variety of synonyms for the term "flaw:"
Surface characteristic
Surface mark or marking

When dealing with diamonds and colored gems, gemologists limit the term "blemish" to surface flaws such as scratches and bumps. The term "inclusion" refers to flaws that extend below the surface such as cracks and holes.

"Blemish" takes on a different meaning when used with pearls. It means any kind of flaw, internal or external. This book often uses the term "flaw" because it's short and easily understood by the trade and general public. For the sake of variety, other terms are used as well.

Flaws can be positive features. They serve as identifying marks that a gem is ours and not somebody else's. They help prove that it is real and not imitation. Flaws can lower the price of gems without affecting their overall beauty. Perfection does not seem to be a goal of nature. In fact, the longer a pearl is in an oyster, the more likely it is for irregularities to occur. Therefore, when shopping for pearls, there's no need to look for flawless ones. You just need to know what types of imperfections to avoid.

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