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Pearl Blemishes

A standardized terminology has not been developed for pearl blemishes. The terms found below are based primarily on those listed in the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) pearl grading course. These imperfections are usually judged without magnification.

• Bumps and Welts: Raised areas which are found alone or in groups. They may sometimes cover most of the surface area of the pearl. If bumps or welts are very large, they can put the pearl into the off-round category. Occasionally pearls have a wrinkled appearance. This is due to groupings of welts.

• Discolorations: Spotty areas often caused from concentrations of conchiolin, a protein substance that holds nacre crystals together. Discolorations are not frequently seen because pearls are typically bleached to even out their color.

• Chips, Holes and Patches of Missing Nacre: Blemishes which may occur on any type of pearl but that are particularly common on those with thin nacre.

• Pits and Pinpoints: Tiny holes on the surface which are normally hardly noticeable and, therefore, not serious. "Pinpoints" may also refer to tiny bumps since, from a distance, these look about the same as tiny pits.

• Dimples: Circular depressions or indentations which are often found in groups.

• Dull Spots: Areas of very low luster due to variations in nacre quality or contact with chemicals, cosmetics or skin secretions.

• Cracks: Breaks in the nacre and/or bead nucleus. Small cracks in the bead may look like little hairs trapped under the nacre. Cracks, even when not visible, can threaten the durability of a pearl.

• Scratches: Straight or crooked lines scraped on the pearl. These aren't serious unless the pearl is so badly scratched the luster and beauty is affected.

Which Blemishes Are Acceptable

It's not the presence of flaws that matters. It's the type, quantity and prominence of the flaws that does. Listed below are blemishes which would normally be considered unacceptable:

• Cracks throughout the pearls. Thick nacre does not crack easily. Thin nacre does. Even if the cracks aren't noticeable, they are a sign that the nacre is too thin and that the pearls won't give you lasting wear.

• Patches of missing nacre. Just as diamonds with big chips are considered unacceptable, so are pearls with chunks of missing nacre. Both the beauty and durability of the pearl are affected.

• Prominent flaws on a single pearl. When buying pearl earrings, pendants, pins or rings pay closer attention to the flaws. For example, a pearl with a large, visible bump would not be acceptable as the featured pearl of a jewelry piece, but it would be okay in a strand. If you Missing nacre around the drillare buying an expensive pearl and you want to compro- hole mise on price, try to select one whose imperfections canbe hidden by the setting.
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