Types of Cultured Pearls: Freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea Pearls

Pearls are unique jewelry pieces with a long and rich history. There are two different groups of pearls, natural and cultured. Natural pearls originate from living creatures when an irritant enters the mollusk, while cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms and are the direct result of human intervention. Cultured pearls are real pearls formed inside real oysters but with the help of people who insert the irritant purposefully. In fact, 95% of the pearls sold today are cultured pearls.

A couple of investors began the process of cultivating pearls at the start of the 20th century. The most popular investor was Japanese Kokichi Mikimoto, also known as the father of the Akoya pearl. Pearl farmers create cultured pearls in both saltwater and freshwater. The cultured seawater pearls are divided into three categories, Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls. All of these different types have high-quality, astonishing colors and various sizes that you can choose from.

So, if you want to learn more about the different types of cultured pearls, here are a couple of facts that might interest you. 

Akoya cultured pearls

Akoya pearls are the classic and most famous types of cultured pearls. This pearl is named after Japan’s Akoya oysters, which produce many pearls with amazing luster and shine. The colors vary from creamy shades and silvery blue to pinkish white. 

In fact, this pearl is highly prized for its rich colors and beautiful luster. Additionally, they have a size between 2 to 10 mm and a perfectly round shape which makes them ideal for long necklace strands and bracelets. All jewelry pieces made from Akoya pearls can help you create the perfect mix of casual and formal looks. 

Image source: CNN

Tahitian cultured pearls

Tahitian pearls are mostly found in the South Pacific lagoons. More precisely, these famous pearls can be found over a wide area, starting from the Cook Islands, going east through Tahiti continuing to the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. These beautiful pearls have different colors starting from silver and green to dark charcoal. 

Actually, the unique dark colors is what makes them so special. However, even though Tahitian pearls are known for their dark range of colors, most black-looking Tahitian pearls are not exactly black. Usually, they are silver, charcoal, and green, with peacock green being among the most sought-after. However, the truly black pearls are one of the rarest and most difficult pearls to find. The Tahitian pearls weigh 5 kg (10 pounds), have a drop shape, and vary in size between 8 to 18 mm. 

South Sea cultured pearls

South Sea cultured pearls are one of the largest and most high-prized pearls in the world. These pearls are mostly cultured in the warm waters of Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Usually, South Sea cultured pearls need 2-4 years to fully mature to be able to use them. After the harvest, they are not bleached, which helps them keep their natural body color. Their colors vary from white and silvery blue to pale gold and soft yellow. 

South Sea pearls are very rare, especially when taking into consideration their size, which can vary between 8 to 22 mm. These pearls are one of the most expensive because they are very difficult to find and cultivate, but also because their shapes vary from round, near-round, baroque, to drop-shaped pearls. Also, since the cultivation process is long, it is very difficult to find South Sea pearls similar in size, color, and quality. This is another reason why these pearls are so expensive and unique. 

Image source: Forbes

Freshwater cultured pearls

Freshwater cultured pearls are formed when a mantel tissue is cut from a donor mussel’s inner lining and added to the harvesting mussel and therefore starting the pearl creation process. Every freshwater mussel can form up to 40 pearls with mostly oval or button shapes. 

They are mainly found in China and have one of the widest size ranges of all pearls, varying from 2 to 15 mm. What makes Freshwater cultured pearls so captivating is their color variety. They can be found in white, cream, orange, pink, and yellow. 

Nowadays, cultured pearls have overtaken the global pearl jewelry market. All of the farm-produced pearls are unique pieces with different colors, shapes, and sizes. Both freshwater and seawater cultured pearls are specific jewelry pieces, so whichever you decide to purchase, you won’t make a mistake. They can be found all over the world and nowadays are recognized as timeless accessories in bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.

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