Types & Value of Pearls

Although most people are familiar with round shaped pearls, a number of people aren’t aware that real pearls aren’t always 100% round but could actually  come in irregular shapes. This is as a result of the positioning of a pearl within the mollusk. If the pearl develops against the shell, it will become more flattened on that side.

Pearl experts generally divide pearl shapes into three broad categories, based on their overall characteristics:

  • Spherical shapes are perfectly round or nearly round. They are the “classic” pearl shape most people are familiar with.
  • Symmetrical shapes are balanced and regular. If you sliced this pearl in half, each half would be a mirror image of the other half.
  • Baroque shapes are irregular or abstract. They are non-symmetrical in nature

Within these three broad categories, pearls can be classified into seven basic shapes:

  • Round: Round pearls are perfectly spherical – the shape most people think of when they think of a pearl. Because of their relative rarity and “classic” nature, they are highly desirable. Round pearls fall into the spherical category.
  • Near-round: These pearls are not perfectly round. Instead, they are slightly flattened or elongated, rather than being a perfect sphere. Nonetheless, they are so nearly perfect that they, too, are classified as spherical.
  • Oval: These pearls are shaped like an oval – narrower at the ends, than they are in the center. Ovals are categorized as a symmetrical shape.
  • Button: Button pearls are flattened to some degree, making them resemble a button or perhaps a disk rather than a perfect sphere. These pearls are often used in earrings, where the flattened side can be attached to the setting. Buttons are also categorized as symmetrical.
  • Drop: Drop pearls are pear or teardrop-shaped. The drop can either be “long” or “short,” depending on its proportions. These pearls make attractive earrings or pendants. This is also a symmetrical shape.
  • Semi-baroque: These pearls are slightly irregular in their shape. For example, a pearl which might otherwise be considered an oval, button, or drop pearl, but which is not symmetrical in nature, would be considered semi-baroque. Semi-baroque pearls fall into the baroque category of shapes.
  • Baroque: This is a pearl that is both non-symmetrical and irregular in shape. The baroque pearl can be purely abstract in its shape, or it can resemble a cross, stick, or some other shape. Baroque pearls fall into the baroque category.
images source: Ross-Simons
Image source: Ross-Simons

The shape of a pearl is one of several factors that go into determining its quality, and value. In general, round and near-round pearls are the most valuable, because of their rarity. Symmetrical shapes are generally considered to be more desirable than baroque shapes. Baroques, however, can be extremely unique, thus increasing their desirability more than might be expected based on their shape alone

When shopping for pearls, some of the popular shape names you may hear are: potato, nugget, rice, coin, tear drop, stick and button.

No matter the shape or kind of pearl you buy, they are sure to bring a touch of class to an outfit.

Source: Pearl Guide


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