Natural vs. Cultured South Sea Pearls: What’s the Difference?

November 1, 2013 by tpsblogadmin

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between naturally occurring and cultured South Sea pearls? Actually, since both types of pearls are created in a bivalve such as an oyster or mollusc, they can both be considered natural.

The cultured pearl industry was born in the early 20th century in reaction to the fact that naturally occurring pearls are very difficult to find, and finding round or matching pearls proves to be an even more difficult task. Culturing pearls solved these issues since cultured pearls can be created in a much more controlled fashion.

The process of creating cultured pearls involves introducing an irritant into a mollusc or oyster, causing it to secrete a nacre—or coating—around the foreign body. The many layers of nacre that get deposited in the oyster build and harden to create a pearl. The thicker the nacre, the longer it takes, and the bigger sized and higher valued the pearl will be. Based on the location of the mollusc, the coloration and lustre may also vary.

South Sea pearls are created by the Pinctada Maxima oyster, and a large percentage of these pearls are obtained from culturing farms in Australia. They are the largest variety of cultured pearls and may vary from 9mm to as large as 20mm in size. White South Sea pearls are among the most sought after for their lovely shine and large sizes that can look great in all types of jewelry settings.

South Sea Pearl Sizing

Since a single oyster can be induced to make multiple pearls, the price of cultured pearls is much more affordable compared to natural ones, which mostly produce one at a time. This price can still vary greatly depending on various factors such as the thickness of the nacre, the shine, and the evenness of the shape. South Sea pearls are among the most expensive cultured pearls due to their large size, which accordingly take longer to be completed.

The final point to consider when choosing your pearls is to identify where they rank on a grading scale. Although there are many grading systems, the two most accepted are the system which grades on a scale of A to D, and the system that uses a series of “A’s” for grading. The highest graded pearls generally consist of the top 2% in quality of a pearl harvest.

Though these lustrous gems are most popular for serving as a traditional wedding day accessory for brides, South Sea pearls can be worn for almost any occasion, whether formal or casual. Once you purchase your preferred type of South Sea pearls be sure to wear them as often as possible, as it is the best ways to keep them in lustrous and good condition.