Types of Pearl Flaws

What are Pearl Blemishes?

In the pearl industry, the term "blemish" has the same meaning as "flaw." Some other terms used are imperfection and spot. All of these terms describe the characteristics of the pearl surface that determine the quality of the pearl.

Minor blemishes are usually acceptable and can be positive characteristics. A pearl's blemish is unique and can serve as an identifying feature for the owner to distinguish their pearl from another. Aside from lowering the price, imperfections also help to identify that the pearl is genuine. Of course, there are flawless genuine pearls in the market and because of the rarity, the price will be very high. So it is good to buy pearls from a trusted jeweller.

Different Types of Blemishes

The common pearl blemish characteristic that can be seen without magnification.

  • Scratches: Scratched lines on the surface of the pearl, usually fine straight or crooked lines. This is acceptable if the pearl is not heavily scratched and affect the lustre of the surface.
  • Pinpoints / Pits: These are tiny bumps and holes or pits that are usually not that visible from a distance.
  • Dull spots: Very low lustre in areas of poor nacre quality. This can also be due to contact of the pearl with chemicals or cosmetics.
  • Bumps: Raised areas or welts, either alone or in groups. When the raised areas occur in groups, they can cover most of the pearl's surface and affect the pearl's shape. Sometimes wrinkles appear due to the grouping of bumps.
  • Dimples: Pearl dimples look like circular depressions on the surface, usually occurring in groups.
  • Cracks: Internal cracks may not be visible or sometimes look like fine hairs caught in the pearl. Again, these cracks usually do not really affect the beauty of the pearl, but can threaten its durability.
  • Chipping and Gaps: These occur when some layers of the nacre flake off and are very common in pearls with thin nacre.
  • Discolouration: Uneven hues on the pearl surface due to the concentration of protein substance that holds the nacre together.

Acceptable Or Unacceptable Flaws?

  • The majority of the pearl's surface is covered with flaws.
    If there are too many groups of blemishes on the surface, the attention of the viewer will be drawn to the blemishes rather than to the pearl itself. The lustre and beauty of the pearl will also be affected, making it less acceptable.
  • Obvious blemishes on a single pearl.
    For example, a large pit or bump will be visible on a single pearl that is to be set in a ring or pendant, which is unacceptable if the flaw cannot be hidden by the jewellery setting; however, it would be acceptable in a strand.
  • Pearl with many cracks.
    This means that the nacre of the pearl is very thin and unacceptable because it won't wear well overtime. Thick nacre does not get cracks easily, but thin ones do, even though some are not noticeable.
  • Missing nacre.
    It is unacceptable if the pearl has a patch of missing nacre, just like other gemstones with a large chip. Not only is the beauty of the pearl affected, but also the durability of the pearl.

Sometimes it is not only quality that determines acceptability, but one's needs and desires also count. Some will opt for the fine quality necklace with the fewest flaws; others with limited budgets will be happy to find blemished pearls at an affordable price. Therefore, it is still your final decision as to what is acceptable or not.

Editor's Note

It's important to note that these imperfections are common in pearls and do not necessarily affect the pearl's beauty and value. However, they can affect the pearl's durability over time.

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