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Pearl Education - Please enter your jewelry question or comment. > Hanadama Pearls

The Truth about TRUE AAA and Hanadama Pearls
05-07-2006, 08:44 AM

Over the years, the standards for earning a "Hanadama" label have greatly diminished. In fact, Mikimoto has eliminated the term "Hanadama" from their entire website as they do not associate with it anymore.

Please click this link to prove it to yourself to see the search results for the term "hanadama" in using the Google search engine: adheres to the The Mikimoto Pearl Grading System where surface perfection or a blemish free surface found in the AAA quality is the key to the most valuable pearls in the world. The Mikimoto Pearl Grading System is the only qualified system which accurately and consistently defines pearl quality. Please click the link below to verify this.

Hanadama pearls are spotted. Spotted pearls like the Hanadama are worth half the price of clean pearls such as the AAA that Mikimoto and American Pearl sells. In fact, some pearl websites are even falsely describing these Hanadama pearls as "virtually spotless". How can that be?

If you look carefully at the Hanadama paper (the best possible grade is "very slightly imperfect" or spotted). In other words, there are blemishes on the pearls. AAA pearls are blemish free and get the "clean" grade backed up by the GIA. Consumers spending a lot of money on pearls are entitled to get what they pay for. In the image below, the pearls on top are TRUE AAA from American Pearl. The ones below it are Hanadama.

Click here to see the Mikimoto Pearl Grading System

(please click the link above and read Mikimoto's guidelines and notice that AAA Quality is not 95% clean as some forums and pearl websites falsely advertise. It is blemish free!.

Be leery of pearl forums that are run by a syndicate or group of pearl sellers that may be involved in price fixing (or keeping prices artificially high through their ring of websites) all supplied by one source whose messaging is deliberately intended to make you think certain things are true. In many cases, there are multiple members who appear to be conversing about topics as if they are independently expressing their opinion when in fact they are all supplied and a franchisee of the forum itself! Many of these franchise pearl sellers claim to be wholesale direct importers when in fact they are RESELLERS and purchase locally (they all drop ship from one location) and are bound by a strict reseller contract where pricing and messaging are fixed. There are about a dozen of these generic websites that advertise in Google Adwords and are all supplied by one source and adhere to one message and one price scheme. At the end of the day, there is one supplier. If you Google Map the location of some of these pearl e-commerce sites you'll see that some of them are operating out of a mail boxes etc..

I started this forum because I believe that Consumers are entitled to the truth about finer quality pearls. In addtion, consumers are entitled to the finest quality pearls with proper descriptions of the quality they intend to purchase. Consumers are entitled to know the origin of the pearls they purchase and how the origin of a pearl affects market value.

"Hanadama" is a label printed on an appraisal describing a minimum pearl quality standard as set forth by an opinion of The Pearl Science Lab (or numerous other companies); a small private company that operates in Japan that appraises pearls. There are dozens and dozens of private companies in Japan that appraises pearls and label the appraisals with the word Hanadama based on their opinion of quality. American Pearl is the originator of selling The Pearl Science Lab's Hanadama Pearls on the internet. It is important to understand that every strand of pearls submitted to The Pearl Science Lab is unique; as no two pearls are the same. In addition, "Hanadama" is not an official grade (Please see article on how Wikipedia uncovered this . Any one of the dozens of companies in Japan that appraises pearls can use the term Hanadama freely making the term used for a great range of quality from very low quality up. Mikimoto has popularized their own grading system of AAA, AA, A+ and A which is different than that of The Pearl Science Laboratory. Furthermore, the MIkimoto AAA surface quality is spotless or blemish free (the pearls are cleaner), whereas the very best surface grade for a Hanadama necklace is "very slightly imperfect". Therefore the "Hanadama" label assigned by The Pearl Science Lab can represent a range of quality; making a Hanadama necklace only as good as the pearl strand submitted.

Particularly, AAA quality pearls are indeed unblemished. THEY ARE NOT 95% inclusion free. In fact, Mikimoto just created the ONE LINE of pearls that are worth much less than AAA quality. The ONE LINE, for example, AAA1, are blemished. So if you are innocently hunting for high quality Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearls that are advertised as AAA quality, please make sure your pearls are PERFECTLY CLEAN. Everyone in the world of pearls from the farmers to the retail stores (even though they won’t admit it) knows that PERFECTLY CLEAN pearls are worth considerably more than blemished pearls and that 95% INCLUSION FREE is just a nice way of saying that the pearls are inlcuded, spotted, blemished or otherwise marked. If you have any doubt about this, you can check this information with MIKIMOTO by phoning one of their stores. Particularly, an 8mm x 8.5mm natural color Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearl necklace that is 16 inches costs $29,000 at Mikimoto. Having been to many, many Mikimoto stores in person to identify their quality in person, I can say firsthand that these pearls are perfectly clean.

Not only this, Chinese Akoya Cultured Pearls that originate from China are uncomparable to their Japanese counterparts. They are also so plentiful in the marketplace that they are simply not as valuable. Make no mistake about it. The label AAA QUALITY is reserved for pearls that originate from JAPAN. You can verify this by asking the people that invented the labeling system; Mikimoto. Tiffany & Co. also sells Akoya cultured pearl necklaces that originate from JAPAN.

American Pearl has made it its Mantra to disclose the superior cleanliness of our pearls’ surfaces to consumers. We have been doing this proudly for over 55 Years! We started to call these unblemished pearls "clean" to coincide with the GIA Cultured Pearl Classification system.

Eddie Bakhash
American Pearl

Last edited by pearleducation; 07-12-2013 at 12:51 PM.
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Grading Pearls, Nomenclature as Set Forth by the Gemological Institute of America
05-23-2006, 06:19 PM


Not all pearls are created equally. In addition, there are several characteristics that make up a pearl's quality that are not part of the Hanadama certificate that are easy to overlook. We believe that consumers are entitled to the whole story.

In summation, THERE IS ONLY ONE BEST. You can know your strands are the best because the buyer got the first look of the Japanese Akoya pearl harvest. Usually, the seller and the buyer will cherish this relationship as it is built up over decades and they will pass it down to later generations.

Unlike diamonds that are subject to a subtractive grading system, pearls are bound by an additive grading system. What does this mean? The best diamond in the world is D color and flawless; there is no better. With pearls, there is always some pearl elsewhere that could be slightly better. How do we know this? If you examine the nomenclature for which Japanese Akoya cultured pearls are graded against (luster, nacre thickness, bodycolor, shape, matching, surface imperfections and overtones) as set forth by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), most of the criteria in each category are additive except shape. That is, there is always something better.

For example, take Luster. Luster is the mirror-like quality of a pearl. According to the Gemological Institute of America's pearl grading system, luster can be low, medium, high or very high. What if it is extremely high and off the charts? Any pearl farmer will tell you that they frequently find pearls whose characteristics are “off the charts.”

What is the bodycolor of the pearl necklace? What is the matching? Pearls that have a slightly creamy bodycolor can be worth 40% less than pure white bodycolor. The certificate from the Pearl Science Laboratory does not account for the bodycolor, only the overtone which gives it the rose characteristic that is Hanadama.

Pearls whose matching is not 100% (meaning that not 10 out of every 10 pearls matches exactly) are also worth less. Having a cultured pearl necklace where all of the pearls truly look like one another is a paragon; resulting in more valuable pearls.

In addition, what if the pearl's are much cleaner than the highest grade of "very slightly" imperfected on the certificate? What if the pearls are UNBLEMISHED?
Did you know that pearls that are very slightly blemished can be worth half as much as their UNBLEMISHED counterparts?

What is the exact NACRE THICKNESS (the skin of the pearl) measured to be for your exact strand? Is it .50mm, .55mm or .6mm? Pearls are bought and sold by weight. Thicker NACRE pearls are heavier, more durable and therefore worth more. In addition, luster and nacre are directly correlated, a nacre thickness of .6mm can be more lustrous than a .55mm or .5mm and therefore worth more.

You see, ultimately, whether or not your strand of cultured pearls comes with the certificate from the pearl science laboratory from Japan, you are still at the mercy of the seller who is offering you the strand. There are numerous grading characteristics that are simply not covered by the certificate that are indeed part of the nomenclature for grading cultured pearls (as set forth by the GIA).

It is truly difficult to capture the awe of an exceptional strand of cultured pearls; although we have tried here in many, many words. As a second generation pearl company, we can assure you that the pearls we offer are consistently the finest that we have ever seen in our 55 years of business. As the first seller of this quality pearls online, we have truly pioneered this space and have a legion of happy customers who have purchased this specific product.

Last edited by pearleducation; 11-18-2006 at 03:25 PM.
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Junior Member
About Hanadama through an actual user experience,
12-20-2011, 04:38 PM

On Dec 20, 2011, at 3:32 PM, Stephen wrote:


I just received the AA Bracelet that I purchased to go with the Hanadama necklace (Order No. 41110 and 4188). WOW!!! What a big difference!!!! I thought, at best, it would be subtle--but the pearls used for the bracelet are of NOTICEABLY finer quality. Your AA has all the luster and richness I would have expected to see in "Hanadama" quality pearls (but didn't) . Putting them AA bracelet side-by-side with the Handama necklace , the pearls use for the Hanadama certified necklace looks dull and cloudy compared to the AA's. I showed the bracelet and necklace to my assistant (she's a big pearl fan) and asked her which she preferred without telling her which was AA and which was Hanadama (a sort of blind taste test). She LOVED the bracelet and thought the pearls were "gorgeous and silky smooth". She thought the orient is far more pronounced in the AA's, the rose overtone was stronger and the luster was several notches higher in her view (all things I really wanted to see in the necklace but didn't) . When I told her that she had picked the AA's over the Handama's she couldn't get over it--she too bought into your competitors' hype over the Hanadamas being equivalent to Mikimoto AAA's (just like I did). I suppose some Hanadama strands could be outstanding and true AAA quality , but it is clear that just having a Hanadama Certification attached to a strand of pearls does not assure the buyer that they are getting anything more than A+ middle of the road quality. In any case, you're AA's were fantastic. I can't even imagine what the AAA and Collection quality pearls look like.

I hate to inconvience you or your staff, but I am sending the AA bracelet, Hanadama Necklace and A+ earrings back for a refund. While the necklace is still quite nice, you can't put your AA bracelet next to it without making the necklace look very weak by comparison and I know my wife will want everything to match beautifully. In their place, I just ordered a complete set of AA's, with the 18k figure 8 clasps and an upgrade from 16" to 18' on the necklace (Order No. 41439). Last week, you offered to personally match the strands for me last week. If it's not too much trouble, can you please select a really nice matching set for my wife?

As a side note, a person on the forum asked how Hanadama pearls compared with Mikimoto. I posted a response based on my personal experience with this Hanadama necklace and the research I had done online and by shopping at Tiffany's, Mikimoto etc. You can imagine the reaction from Jeremy Shepherd and his fanboys and fangirls. They believed I was either you or one of your employee's "shilling" on their forum as a regular member. I have been banned from the forum after one post. Rather than actually address and refute the merits of my comments, they made disparaging remarks about American Pearl and, by association, you. Here's a link to discussion: I have been on pricescope for years and many other forums and I have never seen anything like this. It's outrageous that they can conduct business this way and accuse you of acting in bad faith.

Thank you so much for your patience and time. I am really looking forward to giving this set to my wife. She is going to love them!

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Last edited by pearleducation; 09-15-2013 at 01:58 AM.
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Hanadama Pearls
02-21-2012, 02:05 PM

Thanks. I see you were kind enough to take the time and take photos of the AA (on top) Quality and the Hanadama (on bottom). As you can see from the photos the standards of Hanadama have greatly diminished over the years unfortunately.

Originally Posted by stephen
Hey Eddie:

My wife absolutely adores the set of AA akoyas I purchased for her for Chanukah. I took a few pictures for your fans. They really glow. My wife cried when she saw them--nice!!!

Oh--and for those who are interested, here's a comparison to the Hanadama pearls:

Definitely no comparison! American Pearl AA wins hands down

Last edited by pearleducation; 02-22-2012 at 08:42 PM.
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TRUE AAA Versus Hanadama
12-16-2012, 08:05 PM

A picture is worth a thousand words. Click the image below. You'll see that the necklace on top is TRUE AAA Quality from American Pearl. The one on the bottom is a Hanadama strand.

Last edited by pearleducation; 12-16-2012 at 08:13 PM.
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Junior Member
12-18-2012, 10:33 AM

After reading through these posts, I think that the most important passage here is:

"You see, ultimately, whether or not your strand of cultured pearls comes with the certificate from the pearl science laboratory from Japan, you are still at the mercy of the seller who is offering you the strand. There are numerous grading characteristics that are simply not covered by the certificate that are indeed part of the nomenclature for grading cultured pearls (as set forth by the GIA)."

In this Internet age, anyone can sell anything that they want to, and claim to be "experts" in their fields. The pictures posted here attest to the fact that American Pearl operates its business on a foundation of full transparency. What other online pearl dealers care as much about educating the public about pearls as they do about offering only the best available to their customers? I honestly cannot think of one.

I do not think of American Pearl as a business. I think of American Pearl as an institution of higher pearl education that, fortunately for us, buys the best from the pearl harvests, and employs the best pearl jewelry designers in America. Every single time I have a question about pearls, I simply come to the forum and find my answer. If it is not already here, all I have to do is post a question, and I will soon have an honest answer from the owner or a seasoned, knowledgeable employee.

As a pearl lover, I am so grateful for the website. It has everything I need to make an informed decision, buy an existing piece of jewelry, or commission my own piece without a single worry about the quality or craftsmanship of my piece. I wonder how many other people could say these things about other online pearl dealers. Not many, I am sure.

Last edited by pearleducation; 03-26-2013 at 03:05 PM.
Pearlanista is offline  
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Gemology Online
03-25-2013, 06:12 PM

Here is an interesting post from another neutral forum about gemology regarding the subject stephen experienced:

"I belonged to the pearl guide for a number of years but have quit participating. There was some good info regarding pearls on the forum, but there is also a lot of cheerleading for certain vendors/ owners on the forum as well. Left after some serious editing on the part of moderators/ owners was changing the content and meaning of my and their posts..... to make them look better of course and rewrite some misspoken comments on their part. Found out later that if you don't tow the line on the forum you will be asked to leave, so I left first."

Last edited by pearleducation; 09-16-2013 at 12:53 AM.
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