I don't have a macro lens on my camera, but I wanted to try to share a picture of different quality pearl strands.
The front strand of pearls is rated AAA. This means the lustre is very high, has a great reflective quality with mostly crisp outlining, and a strong depth to the appearance of the shine and surface. While there are going to be the occasional mark on the surface, it will not be a major distraction and the strand overall is 95% blemish-free. These pearls are extremely close in size, shape, and both the and tone/overtone, so the strand is very well matched and looks uniform. This is an outrageously lovely strand of cultured freshwater pearls.
The back strand was sold as AA grade, but is actually somewhere between a C and a B, with some pearls that are actually unusable for jewelry due to the number and nature of blemishes. They go beyond being the little "Nature's Kisses" that help discern real pearls, and instead are really just blights. In this portion shown of the strand, the pearls are mostly uniform in size and shape, but in some portions of the strand there was over a mm in difference. While this doesn't sound like a huge measurement for most things, for my purposes it can be the difference between "usable" and "unusable." There are a variety of rolling scrapes, dimples/dents/pocks, nodules, etc. Again, these are natural markings that occur during pearl formation in the mollusks, but at higher quality ratings, these marks should be much fewer on the strand. The lustre on some of the pearls was so cloudy there was just a fuzzy "reflection" instead of the nice sharp outlines on the lights, and they did not reflect their neighbours at all.
Just a fun little photo demonstration of some of the differences in quality on the market.
Eventually I will have a macro lens and be able to share better detail in the images. If you ever see me at a show and want me to walk you through the differences in my pieces in person, I am very happy to do so. 😊 Please be warned, tho: I kiiiind of nerd out on this stuff, so you will most likely get a lot of info. 😁