The Many Types of Pearls

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Disclosure in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

Akoya pearls are prized for their stunning rich color and luster, and are typically a symbol of beauty and elegance. Akoya pearls — which come from Japan’s akoya oysters –are on of the most popular pearl types on the market. They grow between 3 to 10mm, and naturally come in cream, pink, white, silver, green and blue hues. Black akoya pearls have become popular, but since the pearls don’t form with a natural blackish hue, they are treated with an organic and color-stay dye that creates the Tahitian-like color. This color is permanent, which means the black akoya pearls won’t fade.

Black akoya pearls are just one of the many different types of pearls available at various merchants, such as The Pearl Source. Typically, the pearls can be divided into 5 separate categories: natural, cultured, saltwater, freshwater and imitation.Β 

Natural pearls are typically found in the Persian Gulf and are actually rare. This is due to the over harvesting of the pearls. It is nearly impossible to find natural pearls in nature, and when they are found, they are usually small and are attached to a high price tag.

Cultured pearls are farm grown, which means that the mollusks are raised on a farm and implanted with a mother-of-pearl bead nucleus so that a pearl will begin to form. However, not all mollusks will grow a pearl and sometimes what does grow is small and unimpressive.Β 

Saltwater pearls — such as South Sea, Tahitian and Akoya pearls — are grown in the waters of Japan and China. These pearls are usually round in shaped and range in size in color. For example, South Sea pearls — which come from Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia — are the largest, measuring up to 20mm.Β 

Freshwater pearls are predominately cultivated in China, growing in freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers. They are most commonly white in color, but can grow in different pastel colors, sizes and shapes. Since freshwater pearls typically don’t have a bead nucleus, they have a thicker nacre.Β 

Imitation pearls — as the name suggestions — are not real pearls. They are made from coated glass beads painted to look like real pearls. Consumers are often fooled by imitation pearls even though they lack the depth of luster that real pearls have. Imitation pearls significantly cheaper than real pearls and a trained jeweler should be able to easily spot fake pearls.