Pearl_Types

Cultured Pearls

Pearl Types

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Cultured Pearls

Cultured Pearl Types

Cultured pearls come in a few main varieties:

Each type of pearl has its own unique beauty to offer today’s pearl appreciators. This short, visuals-rich overview will provide you with the “quick-start” you need to make an informed consideration about which pearl type is to the best of your liking.

FRESHWATER PEARLS

Freshwater Pearls are Unique and Affordable. Although the most commonly produced pearls, they are best known for their wide range of shapes, sizes and colours, combined with their attractive pricing. The charming character made them a favourite among jewellery designers, shoppers and pearl connoisseurs alike.

Freshwater PearlsMap Freshwater Pearls

Quick Freshwater Pearl Facts:

  • ORIGIN: Produced by the Hyriopsis mussel, most of the cultured Freshwater pearls are farmed in China’s natural freshwater lakes and man-made aquaculture farms.
  • SIZES: Freshwater pearls range in size from 2mm up through 12mm, with new experimental varieties attaining sizes up through 15mm.
  • COLOURS: The Freshwater pearl mussel produces a variety of many natural colours, most typically pastel shades of pink, peach, lavender and white.
  • SHAPES: Unique range from free form baroques to near-rounds. The most valuable Freshwater pearl shape is as close to a true round as possible.
  • COMMON TREATMENTS: Dyed black Freshwater pearls are commonly referred to as Peacock due to their highly iridescent blue-green and violet hues. Other dyed Freshwater pearl colours include red, gold, green, purple, blue and pink.
  • PRICE RANGE: Less expensive than saltwater cultured pearl types. Prices range from €30 to the high thousands, depending on the jewellery type, size and quality of the pearls.
  • GOOD TO KNOW: MOST cultured Freshwater pearls are “tissue-nucleated” meaning that a small 1.0mm square piece of donor mantle tissue is used as the nuclei to begin pearl cultivation inside the mussel. As the pearl grows, the donor tissue degrades, leaving a pearl that is nearly 100% solid crystalline nacre. This means that Freshwater pearls are VERY durable!

In-depth Freshwater Pearls

AKOYA PEARLS

The classic white saltwater pearl with the longest cultured history, treasured for their perfect round shapes, bright mirror-like lustre and neutral colours. Akoya pearls are favoured by most retailers and consumers as the elegant pearl choice.

Akoya PearlsMap Akoya Pearls

Quick Akoya Pearl Facts:

  • ORIGIN: The Akoya pearl comes from a small saltwater oyster known as the Pinctada fucata martensii, native to the colder oceanic waters surrounding Japan. Japan is the acknowledged leader in Akoya pearl production – known to produce the best, most consistently beautiful Akoya pearls in the world.
  • SIZES: Akoya relatively small pearls range in size from 2mm up through 9mm, and very rarely, 9-10mm.
  • COLOURS: Traditional Akoya pearl colours are most famously white, but also include natural Silvery-Blue and rare Golden hues.
  • SHAPES: The most valuable and traditional Akoya pearl shape is a true, perfect round. But free form Baroque shapes are also available.
  • COMMON TREATMENTS: Dyed black Akoya pearls are common, and feature a very distinct Midnight Blue-Black colour.
  • PRICE RANGE: Prices range from €75 to the high thousands, depending on the jewelry type, size and quality of the pearls.
  • GOOD TO KNOW: The BEST Akoya pearls are known as “Hanadama” Akoya which in Japanese means “Flower Pearls”.

In-depth Akoya Pearls

SOUTH SEA PEARLS

South Sea Pearls are Large and Luxurious. Often called the “Queen of Pearls”, South Sea pearls feature a gorgeous palette of natural colours ranging from optic white to a deep honey gold that shimmer with delicate overtones. A single strand of these magnificent gems can take many years of harvests to assemble, as each pearl must be painstakingly matched for size, roundness, colour, and quality. Their large size, limited culturing area, and extended growth period all combine to make South Sea pearls the most rare of all pearl types and are prized by collectors and designers alike. The brilliant satin lustre of South Seas pearls, whether white or golden, is soft and opulent.

South Sea PearlsMap South Sea Pearls

Quick South Sea Pearl Facts:

  • ORIGIN: The Silver-lipped P. maxima oyster produces the White South Sea pearl, and is mainly farmed along the North-western coast of Australia. The Gold-lipped P. maxima oyster which produces Golden South Sea pearls is mostly farmed along the coast of the Philippine Islands and Indonesia.
  • SIZES: South Sea pearls are the largest cultured pearl type, ranging in size from 8mm up through 20mm. With the average sizes ranging from 10mm through 14mm, sizes over 15mm are RARE, and very expensive.
  • COLOURS: The South Sea pearl oyster Pinctada knows the Silver-lipped and Gold-lipped varieties, these produce the natural shade array of respectively White and Gold.
  • SHAPES: South Sea pearls that are spherical are the most valuable and rare. Free form baroque, circled and smooth baroque shapes that are symmetrical comprise the vast majority of shapes in each yearly pearl harvest.
  • COMMON TREATMENTS: 99% of all South Sea pearls undergo NO treatment of any kind other than a gentle washing and buffing after harvest.
  • PRICE RANGE: Prices range from €200 to the tens of thousands, depending on the jewellery type, size and quality of the pearls.
  • GOOD TO KNOW: Cultured South Sea pearls have the thickest nacre layers of all saltwater cultured pearl types, averaging around 2-4mm thick around the pearl’s bead nucleus. These extremely thick nacre layers are responsible for the South Sea pearl’s trademark “satiny” lustre that imparts a subtle glow.

In-depth South Sea Pearls

TAHITIAN PEARLS

Tahitian Pearls are naturally Dark and Exotic, the only pearls in the world that are naturally black. They are large, rare and considered luxurious. Tahitian pearls are relative newcomers to the pearl world, popularized only as early as the mid-1900s.

Tahitian PearlsMap Tahitian Pearls

Quick Tahitian Pearl Facts:

  • ORIGIN: Tahitian pearls are produced by the Pinctada margaritifera or Black-lip pearl oyster, cultivated on small pearl farm collectives throughout the French Polynesian Islands.
  • SIZES: Tahitian pearls are one of the largest cultured pearl types in the world, they range in size from 8mm up through 18mm, with the average sizes ranging from 9mm through 13mm. Sizes over 15mm are RARE, and very expensive.
  • COLOURS: Tahitian pearls come in an array of colours, from silver to deep black. Their famous colours like Peacock, regal Green, Blue, Aubergine, and typical shades of pastel Dove Greys to darker Charcoal Greys, are called Overtones and are an iridescent, secondary colour that appears to shimmer over the main body colours.
  • SHAPES: Perfectly round Tahitian pearls are the most valued and rare. Free-form baroque, circled baroque and smooth baroque shapes that are symmetrical comprise the vast majority of shapes in each yearly pearl harvest.
  • COMMON TREATMENTS: Black Tahitian pearls are naturally coloured with no treatments of any kind other than a gentle washing and buffing after harvest.
  • PRICE RANGE: Prices range from €80 to the high thousands, depending on the jewellery type, size and quality of the pearls.
  • GOOD TO KNOW: Cultured Tahitian pearls MUST have a 0.8mm MINIMUM nacre thickness in order to qualify for export from Tahiti to the larger pearl jewellery market.

In-depth Tahitian Pearls

SEA OF CORTEZ PEARLS

A league of its own, cultured pearls from the Sea of Cortez are THE RAREST cultured pearls in the world. Sea of Cortez pearls are incredibly colourful pearls, intense in hue and overtone with a distinct palette of “traditional” Sea of Cortez colours that sets them apart from any other cultured pearl type in the world. These pearls are also the only other naturally-coloured “black” cultured pearl type besides Tahitians available on the jewellery market today.

Sea of Cortez PearlsMap Sea Cortez Pearls

Quick Sea of Cortez Pearl Facts:

  • ORIGIN: Sea of Cortez pearls are cultured on only ONE farm in the entire world: The Perlas del Mar de Cortez pearl farm in Guyamas, Mexico. The farm produces less than 4.000 cultured pearls each year including whole pearls and mabé pearls.
  • SIZES: Size ranges from 8mm up through 12mm, with larger pearls being VERY RARE.
  • COLOURS: The Sea of Cortez pearl oyster, Pteria penguin is also called the “Rainbow Lip” oyster, which gives you a clue as to the wide range of colours this mollusk can produce. Blue-Green, Green, Pistachio, Mauve, Aubergine, Copper, Lime and Rose are just a FEW of the gorgeous hues these pearls present.
  • SHAPES: Round pearls are the rarest shape for Sea of Cortez, comprising a tiny fraction of each yearly harvest. More common are symmetrical baroques, and then smooth drop shapes.
  • COMMON TREATMENTS: NONE, Ever. These pearls are gently washed and scrubbed to remove harvest tissue, and then tumbled in waxed bamboo chips to enhance shine, but that’s it.
  • PRICE RANGE: Prices range from €200 to the tens of thousands, depending on the jewellery type, size and quality of the pearls.
  • GOOD TO KNOW: Sea of Cortez cultured pearls are the ONLY cultured pearl type in the entire world that will fluoresce under UV lighting! It is Mother Nature’s built-in ID system.

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