The French Polynesian Pearl Grading System
In French Polynesia, the trade designation "Tahiti Cultured Pearl" is reserved exclusively for cultured pearls obtained from a grafting of the locally cultivated Pinctada Margaritifera, variety cumingi pearl oyster. Tahitian Pearls are classified according to the 5 criteria listed below and are graded on an scale from A to D, with the grade of "A" being the highest. Under Tahitian government regulation, Tahitian pearls below D quality are not allowed to leave Tahiti.
- Surface Purity
This is the degree to which a the Tahitian pearl's skin is free of blemish or
||Very Clean to Very Lightly Blemished. These
pearls are entirely smooth or contain one visible flaw or a few slight
imperfections at the most (often hidden by a drill hole) and that
cover no more than 10% of the surface of the pearl. If these pearls also
have very good luster, they are very rare. Because this grade is
extremely rare, this adds to their cost.
||Lightly Blemished. These pearls are have a few
imperfections that are visible to the naked eye but that cover
less than 30% of their surface.
||Blemished. This grade contains several slight
flaws that cover no more than 60% of the surface of the pearl. Given the
size and the dark color of Tahitian pearls, C grade Tahitians are still
very attractive and can be extremely striking when in a matched string.
||Heavily Blemished. D Grade Tahitians have either
a large amount of slight flaws covering 60% of the surface of the pearl,
or several slight and deep flaws covering over 60% of the surface at the
most, regardless of the luster.
At the time of production or harvesting, Tahitian pearls are separated into 4
distinct shape categories.
- Round and Semi-round
- Ringed or Circled
|Round and Semi-round
||Pearls that are
classified as Round are almost perfect spheres whose diameter
variation rate is less than 2%. Round pearls are the rarest and the most
sought after Tahitian pearls. They are also the most expensive,
especially they possess an A grade surface quality (see above).
classified as slightly imperfect spheres whose diameter variation rate
is greater than 2% but less than 5%. Other pearl dealers may refer to
this shape as off round or near round.
pearls are those that are slightly irregular in shape. They would
resemble an oval, button, or drop pearl, but which are not symmetrical
in nature. They will also have one axis of rotation, (meaning that
you would be able to spin them on a flat surface).
Semi-baroque pearls may also be subdivided into four shapes: drop,
button, pear and oval. In other words, you may have a
Tahitian pearl that is Semi-baroque/Oval.
are irregular in shape and are not symmetrical. Furthermore they will
not have any axis of rotation (meaning that you would not
be able to spin them on a flat surface). Basically, they can be
purely abstract in its shape.
|Ringed or Circle
would possess one or more grooves or rings encircling them and
would be perpendicular to the axis of rotation.
This shape can also
be combined with another primary shape to further define the pearl
Tahitian Pearls are classified from millimeter to millimeter and measured by
the shortest diameter. The means that they will be graded as 9mm or 10mm (whole
numbers) and always rounded down to the smaller number (10.5mm becomes simply
10mm). If you see pearls from other retailers that are listed as 10.5mm they are
not using the accepted sizing system, and you could actually be buying a pearl
that is slightly smaller than the stated size. When you buy Tahitian pearls at
Pearls by Angela Carol and the stated size is 10mm, you are guaranteed that it
is at least 10mm in diameter but may be actually larger. Tahitian pearls
generally ranges between 8 and 14mm and in some cases may reach 16mm or a very
Luster is one quality that can factor into the surface quality of Tahitian
pearls. This is the quality of how light is reflected from the pearls surface.
Pearls that have a very high to high luster when the reflections in the surface
are bright and sharp. When these reflections are weak, fuzzy or diffused then
the luster is classified as dull or soft. Tahitian pearls that have a very high
luster can rival any other type of cultured pearl due to the intensity and the
sharpness of the light that is reflected. The highest grade Tahitian pearls can
often resemble metal spheres due to shiny appearance of the surface.
At Pearls by Angela Carol we separate the Luster quality and classify it into
4 distinct grades.
- Very High (AAA)
- High (AA)
- Medium (A)
- Soft (B)
Tahitian Cultured Pearls come in a wide variety of different colors that are
all produced naturally. There is generally a base or body color of the pearl and
it is then complimented with various overtones. The predominant basic body colors of a
Tahitian pearls are black, grey, blue, green and brown. These will then be
complimented by various overtone colors of pink, blue, gold, silver, reddish purple or a combination of any of these.
When these overtones exist, they are considered to be a plus factor and they may
significantly raise the value of the pearls. Some of the highest valued and the
most sought after are Black Tahitian pearls with Peacock overtones. Specific names are given to
these color overtones and
this is how we designate the color of our pearls.
|Cherry (or Aubergine)
||Iridescent Surface (the colors appear to move when the pearl is