What is Pearl Matching?
Pearls are traditionally judged individually on their value. However, most pearl jewelry is composed of many pearls in various combinations and designs, and how well the individual pearls in a strand or set match each other can determine the piece's value. This is called pearl matching—the art of picking just the right pearls to go together in any pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, or other piece of pearl jewelry.
Matching is a combination of the following factors:
- How well the pearls match or blend together in terms of color, shape, luster, size and surface perfection
- How centered the drill holes are
- How smooth the size increase is of pearls in graduated strands
Every pearl in even the simplest strand must exactly match in color, luster, nacre thickness, surface quality, size, and shape. If the strand is part of a set, all of its pearls much match those in the earrings, bracelet, rings, and other pearl jewelry.
Judging Matching of Pearls
It's important to take into account the availability of the pearls being graded when judging matching. This means that:
- Non-dyed pinkish strands should not be graded as strictly for make as a non-dyed cream-colored strand since cream colors are more plentiful.
- Dyed and non-dyed Akoya strands should not be graded alike since it's a lot easier to match dyed pearls than those that aren't.
- Very-thick-nacre pearls shouldn't be discounted as much for shape variations as thin- and medium-¬nacre pearls since pearls that are in the oyster longer have a greater chance of growing irregular.
We must be careful not to become so concerned about perfect matching that we end up down playing other quality factors. It's tougher to match pearls than you'd think. It might be easy to do with artificial pearls, because they can be produced in a lab to look identical. But with natural pearls—even cultured pearls—it's a difficult task. This is because each oyster is different. In addition, pearls produced in different oyster beds—or in different regions of the same oyster bed—might experience different water conditions that could affect the pearl's physical qualities.
In general, pearl matching is an art in itself, requiring an eagle eye, excellent judgment, and experience to do well. It is very hard for a jeweler to collect enough matching pearls to create a necklace, say, or a fine pearl jewelry set, in a short amount of time—which is why a well-matched piece or set can be so expensive.