Pearls are considered to be a rare mineral and because of that, they are relatively pricey. Of course, they don’t stand up well to things like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and especially diamonds. But, they do belong to that group, even if it’s in a much smaller way.
There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of a pearl. In fact, most people don’t realize that pearls don’t begin and end with white and black variations. There are also natural pearls and synthetic pearl values to consider as well.
There are roughly seven factors that go into determining the value of a pearl, all of which we will cover below. There are also a lot of pearl types worth considering as well—far more than just white pearls and black pearls.
Value Factors and Types of Pearls
The seven factors include color, shape, size, surface quality, the pearl’s nacre, matching, and luster. All of these factors were established by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and are used for the final valuation of pearls.
Now you have to consider the different types of pearls, each of which has a rarity and semi-starting value of its own.
- Tahitian Pearls: $200 to $36,000 (Black Pearls)
- Clam Pearls: $300 to $1,500
- Oyster Pearls: $20 to $5,000 (rare instances of $3.5, $11.8, and $139 million)
- South Sea Pearls: $200 to $36,000
- Freshwater Pearls: $20 to $5,000
- Akoya Pearls: $100 to $6,000
- Synthetic Pearls: Cheap pears with no distinguishing value
- Cultured Pearls: $50 to $175,000
There is also a distinction to be made between natural oyster pearls and cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are the kind of pearls that are made on an oyster farm, where irritants are purposefully placed inside oysters so that they will produce a pearl. Natural pearls are far more valuable than cultured pearls.
Natural pearls are just that—natural. These are truly rare pearls as they are formed without any kind of outside intrusion. Synthetic pearls are pearls that have little to do with oysters but are manufactured using the same enzymes that oysters secrete over the irritants.
How are the Values Determined?
Using the seven factors above, natural pearls (regardless of where they come from) are valued based on their overall appeal. The appeal of a pearl comes from how it falls into each of the seven categories.
Sometimes, a black pearl will form and grow quite large, only to have an abrasive surface or it will be oblong in shape, rather than spherical. Both of those instances severely truncate the overall value of the pearl.
The most expensive pearls in the world are all-natural pearls and their level of expense is mostly a direct result of their historical significance.