pearl jewelry quality check

Pearl Necklaces Quality Check

Pearlholic® offers a selection of pearls unlike any other pearl seller. Although we have a brick and stone pearl jewelry shop with our own designers and craftsmen in Beijing City, we do not have the overhead that retailers carry and we are able to generate a substantial profit selling our pearls without the retail markup that is typically three more times the wholesale price. While our prices may be substantially lower than those charged by Mikimoto and other high-end jewelers, our standard for quality is not.

To help its clients understand its pricing scheme, Mikimoto’s gemologists created the first widely recognized system for grading Akoya pearls using a system that uses the following grading nomenclature: A, A+, AA and AAA. In the Mikimoto pearl quality ratings system all its “A” graded pearl strands fall within the top five (5%) percent of the pearl harvest, with each sub-grade improving in quality and value.

The Hanadama, AAA, AA, A System

This system grades pearls on a scale starting at A – Hanadama grade and was originally designed for Akoya pearls. There is a similar system used for Freshwater Pearls but there is no Hanadama grade for Freshwater pearls.

Hanadama: This is a special designation for pearls that have passed the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japans rigorous tests and must be accompanied by the original certificate. Hanadama pearls are tested for a nacre thickness of at least 0.4mm on each side for a total of 0.8mm total nacre thickness. Hanadama pearls must also be nearly flawless with no visible inclusions and an extremely high luster.

AAA: The highest-quality pearl, virtually flawless. The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 95% of the surface will be free from any type of defect. The pearl will be perfectly round, and have a mirror-like luster, and a nacre thickness (Akoya pearls only) of 0.4mm or higher.

AA: The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 75% of the surface will be free from any type of defect. The luster will be very high, and have a thick nacre, still a very nice quality but not quite as nice as AAA or higher.

A: This is the lowest jewelry-grade pearl, with a lower luster and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects. In many cases, if the pearl is being mounted into a piece of jewelry, it can be mounted so that the defects are hidden — thus providing a lovely jewelry piece at a lesser price. This quality has a chalky appearance and thin nacre, typically of 0.25mm or less. This thin nacre is due to early harvesting of the pearl.

Pearls that do not fall into the ranking categories above are typically either sold in beading stores, or simply stripped of their nacre, which is then ground to be used in makeup and other beautifying aids.

Pearlholic® is able to achieve the same consistently high grading standards as Mikimoto because the master strands used by our GIA-trained gemologists have been indexed to equivalently graded strands from Mikimoto using side by side comparison and lab testing. Our GIA-trained gemologists then use these Mikimoto indexed master strands to grade every strand of Akoya pearls that we sell.  In short, Pearlholic® guarantees that if you compare our strands side by side with equivalently graded strands from Mikimoto, the Pearlholic® strand will be of equal or greater quality.

Pearlholic® understands that it is difficult for our clients to compare the differences in quality between our pearls and those of our competitors, many of whom are selling so-called AAA strands for less (and in many cases more than Pearlholic®). It is important that our clients understand that there is no universally accepted standard for grading pearls. This deficiency gives pearl vendors license to create their own grading system and, unfortunately, they often create systems that are designed to promote the sale of their products, even if those products are of inferior quality. Please do not fall into this trap. The only way to appreciate the difference between the finest quality pearls and lower quality pearls is to comparison shop. Our GIA-trained gemologists are available to answer any pearl related question you may have at any time either by calling 0086-177-1028-9164 or emailing

This Mikimoto grading system deals more with the surface cleanliness of the pearls and their luster. Why? With over 100 years of pearl culturing and harvesting experience, Japanese Akoya cultured pearls exhibit the widest range of luster found in any pearls in the world. In fact, as one climbs up the rungs of the ladder from A to A+, from A+ to AA and from AA to AAA quality, the pearls exhibit more luster. In the A, A+, AA and AAA pearl quality grades, one is primarily concerned with the incremental increase of the luster of each of the pearls and surface cleanliness. This grading system was specifically designed by Mikimoto to grade pearls from the Japanese Akoya oyster because of the wide range of luster and surface quality produced by this oyster. In effect, this grading system does a good job in differentiating the nuances of luster and cleanliness.

One should know that there are different kinds of pearls, from different oysters whose grading systems are different. With the birth of the South Sea pearl from Australia, Indonesia and Tahiti approximately half a century ago, pearl farmers and pearl dealers began using a different grading system to grade the surface cleanliness of white Australian South Sea Pearls and Tahitian pearls. Why? Because of the South Sea and Tahitian pearl’s larger sizes and consistency in luster, pearl dealers are more interested in the surface cleanliness of the pearls. Most South Sea pearls have an extremely thick nacre (the skin of the pearl). This is why there is more consistency in the luster of South Sea pearls. Nacre and luster are often directly correlated. Thicker nacre pearls can deliver more luster. In contrast, the grading system for Japanese Akoya cultured pearls is concerned with describing the incremental luster of a pearl (combined with a pearl’s cleanliness). The South Sea pearl grading system, the A, B, C and D nomenclature, is particularly concerned with describing the level of blemishing on the surface of the pearls.

The use of the A, A+, AA and AAA grading system for South Sea pearls can also be used to describe the luster of South Sea and Tahitian pearls. When pearl dealers trade South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls outside of the auction system, they primarily use the A, B, C and D nomenclature which gives a more accurate description of the surface cleanliness of a pearl. An educated consumer who is shopping for truly fine-quality pearls should understand that there are particular grading systems suited for each oyster and the pearls it produces. So if you are shopping for South Sea pearls, find out what the quality of the surface of the pearls are using the A, B, C and D nomenclature.

Enjoy shopping on!

Yolanda Qin

CEO of Pearlholic®

You’re Born With Royal Dignity And Elegance.


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