There are a number of important stages in the creation of unique and beautiful pearl jewellery, and here we take a closer look at one of the most crucial, the art of pearl grading each of these precious gems.
Pearl Grading – Farm Grade
This is the first part of the pearl grading process, and it’s where we do an initial assessment of the annual crop for the purpose of providing feedback to the pearl farm management team. Based on these results, they can monitor how particular growing areas on the pearl farm are performing, the individual pearl technician results, eg the retention rate of pearls, mortality, and pearl quality. The farm management team will also be looking at other important information such as research and development experiments which require analysis of the size, shape and quality of the pearl to determine viability.
The most important aspects in a farm grade are the analysis of individual groups of pearl shell, and their percentage of saleable pearls (vs. low grade or unsaleable), the size and weight of the pearls produced, the
percentage of fine quality shapes (eg round, drop, baroque etc,) the percentage of clean skin, and a basic colour profile. Individual groups of pearls are held in their separate grades before they are blended with other pearls. This is for the purpose of finding matching pairs and making strands, once the key data has
been collected for the farm manager and the research team.
Pearl Grading – Premium & Unique Selection
Before any group of pearls are blended, we select our premium (top quality) and unique (unusual size, shape, colour, lustre) pearls. These pearls will form part of our Provenance Proof (blockchain ID) pearls. They are kept
separate as we then track their identity from the beginning of their journey at their source of origin, to the seeding, harvesting, and all the way through to pearl grading and jewellery manufacture. The entire story of these pearls is captured by blockchain digital technology and is carried with each pearl for life.
Pearl Grading – Matchmaking
Once farm grading is complete, the management have the information they need, and the premium/unique pearls have their information captured for Provenance Proof, the balance of the harvest is then mixed and
transferred to the Matchmaking department. Here we commence the process of finding matching pairs and strands. Depending on the quality and quantity of the harvests, some strands will be started but may require pearls from future harvests to complete the strand. When a pearl finds its ‘mate’ in a pair or matching strand, it has a higher value.
- Pearl Grading – Final Grade
With farm grading complete, premium and unique pearls are selected for Provenance Proof, and as many pairs and strands are matched together as possible. It is now time to put a final retail grade and value on
each pearl and select which pearls will make the Pearls of Australia jewellery collections.
A retail grade involves a finer grading of shapes – Round, Near Round, Oval, Drop, Semi Drop, High Button, Button, Baroque and Circle.
Each lot is separated into colour tones (such as white, silver white, cream white, pink, silver blue etc). Then, each pearl is given a skin grade based on the number, position and type of visible blemishes on the
surface, in conjunction with the lustre or shine of the pearl. At PoA, we use A1, A2, A3, B1 & B2 to describe this. Finally, each pearl is run through a sieve plate to determine the mm diameter size, down to the 0.5mm.
With final shape, colour, grade (surface imperfections and lustre), and size and ‘matchability’ (if a pair or strand) now determined, a value can be applied, and the pearls are transferred to the jewellery department for design, manufacture, assembly and sale.
It’s important to remember that the entire pearl grading process is done by hand and eye (not mechanised), and each pearl will pass through the hands of a junior and senior pearl grader several times, to determine the final grade and price. It’s a long process that can take several months to complete, after the pearls has been harvested at the pearl farm.