Pearls 101: A Quick Look at the Different Types

Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors and shapes from round to baroque. image c/o shutterstock

Pearls aren’t just for necklaces anymore. 

A tradition the world over, pearls are often passed down through families, expanding their reach. But their uses have expanded, too. Growing popularity in fashion and decorations make pearls versatile and elegant items. 

They can be seen worn with casual or formal wear or as part of wedding, home or party décor. 

While pearls can been seen just about everywhere, different pearls can be used for different occasions. 

Understanding the different types of pearls is the first step to finding the perfect pearl for any event or space. 

NATURAL PEARLS

 A wild, natural pearl is extremely rare, so if you get your hands on one, hold on to it!

Natural pearls are made almost completely of calcium carbonate and conchiolin, with no human assistance. 

These pearls come in a variety of shapes, and perfectly round ones are the rarest.

CULTURED PEARLS 

You are probably familiar with cultured pearls, which are created on a farm and made in either freshwater or saltwater. Not all mollusks create pearls, and when they are created, they may not be of high quality.

Cultured pearls are typically a uniform shape and size, but can be dyed any color. 

Cultured pearls are sold at a variety of prices based on quality and rarity of the type. There are 4 distinct types of cultured pearls. They are Akoya (saltwater), freshwater, South Sea and Tahitian. Here’s a closer look at each.

AKOYA PEARLS

Commonly seen with white color and rose overtones, the finest Akoya pearls come from Japanese pearls farms. 

The roundest and most lustrous of these saltwater pearls are considerably more perfectly round and smoother than other types of cultured pearls.

SOUTH SEA PEARLS

Found in Australia, Philippines and Indonesia, the South Sea pearls are among the rarest and most valuable of pearls. South Sea pearls are hard to miss and they stand out from other pearls usually due to their ability to grow larger than other types of cultured pearls.

South Sea pearls are large in size and range in color from optic white to a deep, honey gold. These pearls have a soft, luxurious reflection.

Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for these rare, but high-quality pearls.

TAHITIAN PEARLS

These pearls are known for their natural exotic black color — but don’t be fooled, they can come in any color including light creamy white, greens and deep black. The color comes from the oyster’s black lips. 

Tahitian pearls are farmed in French Polynesia, not Tahiti like the name suggests.

FRESHWATER PEARLS

This varietal of pearl grows in mussels that live in rivers and lakes and are most commonly found in China. Mussels can create more than one pearl at a time. 

Pearls found in freshwater will look less lustrous and glossy than saltwater pearls. 

Freshwater pearls come in a variety of shapes and colors and are usually cheaper than saltwater pearls therefore they are commonly used for multi-strand necklaces and bracelets.

Now take this knowledge — and your pearls — and go impress some people at your next party. 

 

  

written by: Alyssa Groh, 22CM Boost

 

 

 

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