Types of Pearls

March 26, 2015 by Melissa

The first step in choosing pearls is understanding the different types of pearls that are available. By understanding each type, you can better choose the type of pearl that meets your needs.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are grown predominantly in China while there are some grown in Japan. Most of them today are what are known as cultured pearls, which means they are farmed using freshwater mussels. The pearl is created when a strip of tissue from a donor mussel is cut from the mantle and inserted into another mussel through a small incision on the upper valve. The mussel then protects itself by coating the foreign object which then becomes the pearl.

Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls are grown in protected bays and inlets in many different countries. They are more valuable than freshwater pearls, although there are some rare freshwater pearls that exceed the value of saltwater varieties. Saltwater pearls are grown in oysters that are members of the Pteridae family and most today are cultivated much like freshwater pearls.

Types of Pearls

Saltwater pearls can be broken down even further by their type. Akoya pearls are cultured in Akoya oysters and are normally white or cream colored. They are well known for their luster and are smoother than freshwater pearls, although the two types do look similar from a distance. Tahitian pearals are known for their dark colors and are cultured off the islands of French Polynesia. They tend to be larger than most pearls and the oysters that create them are extremely sensitive to the cultivation process, making them rarer than other types of cultured pearls. South Sea pearls have a unique satin-like luster and are available in a wide range of colors. They are cultivated in the white-lipped oyster, which are rare and difficult to cultivate, so that these pearls are considered very valuable.

Understanding the various types of pearls will help you choose the perfect pearls for your needs.