hand selecting freshwater pearls

The Science of Lustre: What Makes a Pearl Shine?

The enchanting allure of a pearl's lustre has captivated admirers for centuries. This timeless beauty has a scientific secret, a blend of nature's brilliance and meticulous craftsmanship. We are often asked about the mysteries behind pearl lustre, pearl shine, and the intriguing science behind pearls…

Understanding Pearl Composition:

At the heart of a pearl's radiance lies its unique composition and the intricate layers of nacre that form these treasures. You’ll often see how light dances with these layers, creating an ethereal lustre that sets pearls apart.

“Pearls are judged on 4 main criteria; symmetry, weight, skin tone and lustre.  For me the natural lustre of the pearl is my top priority followed by skin tone and shape to fit my designs.” Claudia.

The Role of Nacre Thickness:

What forms a pearl is (a)layers of nacre and a thicker nacre is often the key to a more radiant pearl and the gemstone’s overall aesthetic.

“When a pearl has a good lustre, light travels through its many layers giving the pearl an amazing inner glow – it takes a lot of time to select the right pearl from often very varied qualities that are bunched together.  My eye is trained to pick out the best lustre in a batch, which are then selected for our specific designs.” Claudia.

Light Reflection and Refraction:

One of the most special characteristics of pearls is the way they are able to reflect light. A high-quality pearl will seem as though it’s being illuminated from within, making it possible to see your own reflection. This phenomenon is referred to as a pearl’s lustre. Not only does pearl lustre quality have an effect on the look of a pearl, but it also has a significant influence on its value.

When a pearl has a good lustre light travels through its many layers of nacre giving the pearl an amazing inner glow; this is what makes a real pearl so special as this quality cannot be replicated in artificial pearls.


Surface Quality and Lustre:

Surface quality also has an impact on the lustre of pearls. There is a delicate balance between flawless surfaces, the way light interacts, and how blemishes can alter this interplay.

“No pearl is exactly perfect, which is one of the attractions. However, one of the reasons we hand select our pearls is to ensure that nothing detracts from the lustre of the pearl, so surface quality is almost as important as lustre when selecting for our designs.” Claudia.

Cultured vs. Natural Pearls:

Natural pearls (as featured in our collection) grow in the wild without human intervention. They are very unique and hand-selected. Cultured pearls are often grown in pearl farms, and are the direct result of human intervention. Cheaper varieties of pearls are nearly always of the cultured variety and do not feature the same quality as natural, freshwater pearls.

Pearl Care for Sustaining Lustre:

All our jewellery is handcrafted with precious materials and A grade freshwater pearls ensuring each piece can be treasured forever. However, it pays to take great care of your jewellery to make sure they maintain their timeless lustre.

Use a soft, dry cloth to gently clean your pearls for shine approximately once a week (or more if you wear your pearl necklace daily). This will also remove any pollutants that can damage pearls over time. Discover our ‘Caring for Your Pearls’ guide for more information.


When choosing your pearl jewellery it’s useful to have a brief understanding of lustre and remember the key factors shaping the radiance of pearls. Embrace the beauty of understanding intricate details, encouraging a profound appreciation for the beloved pearl gemstone.

Explore the world of high-lustre pearl jewellery further in our Pearl Experts guide and discover where timeless elegance meets scientific brilliance.


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