Cultured freshwater pearls are graded by shape, quality and color.
The most expensive pearls are nearly perfectly round, with consistent color and a smooth, mar-free surface. Pearls with all three of these attributes, AAA grade, are quite expensive. On average, less than 2% of all jewelry grade pearls have all three qualities perfectly. Those lacking perfection in either of the three qualities, are considerably cheaper. Expect to pay at least 10 times the average price of A or AA grade, or something is wrong.
We select pearls with good color, very little markings, but with an off-round, or potato shape. Because the pearls are not perfectly round, they are more affordable. It is our opinion that this is the best trade-off for affordable, yet beautiful pearls.