Think of the beautiful glowing skin of a healthy baby or the dewy complexion of a beautiful young woman. These are excellent analogies because healthy skin has qualities similar to the skin of a pearl, and it is these qualities that give it its sense of life. A pearl’s chief asset is its skin. Faceted gemstones have no skin. They possess a cold surface polished to a hard luster with rows of precisely arranged facets. The skin of a pearl, by contrast, is soft and glows rather than gleams. The uncritical dismissal of the pearl is really due to lack of attention to the subtleties of the gem. In modern times we like to use scientific rather than poetic language when we talk about gems. Scientific language is comforting in its precision. Thus we talk about the pearl’s surface rather than its skin. However, the older term is more accurate because it is more evocative and more precisely connotes the feeling one gets viewing a beautiful pearl. Like the skin of a beautiful woman, the skin of a pearl can be silky smooth or blemished, translucent, luminous and alive, or opaque, chalky, and lifeless. Pearl grading uses a specific set of terms which are...
Think of the beautiful glowing skin of a healthy baby or the dewy complexion of a beautiful young woman. These are excellent analogies because healthy skin has qualities similar to the skin of a pearl, and it is these qualities that give it its sense of life. A pearl’s chief asset is its skin. Faceted gemstones have no skin. They possess a cold surface polished to a hard luster with rows of precisely arranged facets. The skin of a pearl, by contrast, is soft and glows rather than gleams. The uncritical dismissal of the pearl is really due to lack of attention to the subtleties of the gem. In modern times we like to use scientific rather than poetic language when we talk about gems. Scientific language is comforting in its precision. Thus we talk about the pearl’s surface rather than its skin. However, the older term is more accurate because it is more evocative and more precisely connotes the feeling one gets viewing a beautiful pearl. Like the skin of a beautiful woman, the skin of a pearl can be silky smooth or blemished, translucent, luminous and alive, or opaque, chalky, and lifeless. Pearl grading uses a specific set of terms which are...

Connoisseurship: Grading Special Cases – Grading Pearls

Posted on January 2, 2017 by Excerpt from the 2nd edition of Secrets of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur’s Guide to Precious Gemstones by Richard W. Wise, GG (GIA)

Think of the beautiful glowing skin of a healthy baby or the dewy complexion of a beautiful young woman. These are excellent analogies because healthy skin has qualities similar to the skin of a pearl, and it is these qualities that give it its sense of life. A pearl’s chief asset is its skin. Faceted gemstones have no skin. They possess a cold surface polished to a hard luster with rows of precisely arranged facets. The skin of a pearl, by contrast, is soft and glows rather than gleams. The uncritical dismissal of the pearl is really due to lack of attention to the subtleties of the gem. In modern times we like to use scientific rather than poetic language when we talk about gems. Scientific language is comforting in its precision. Thus we talk about the pearl’s surface rather than its skin. However, the older term is more accurate because it is more evocative and more precisely connotes the feeling one gets viewing a beautiful pearl. Like the skin of a beautiful woman, the skin of a pearl can be silky smooth or blemished, translucent, luminous and alive, or opaque, chalky, and lifeless. Pearl grading uses a specific set of terms which are...

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