For centuries, people all over the world have been enchanted by the majestic beauty of pearls. While shopping for pearl jewelries, as laypersons, we often do not realize the origin of the pearls that determines the beauty, luster and of course the price of the pearls. There are different types of pearls that differ from each other in quality, color and texture.
Natural and Cultured Pearls
Natural pearls are extremely rare. The pollution of seawater and consequent destruction of underwater life has caused the near extinction of natural pearls. The main and perhaps the only way pearls are produced nowadays are through the cultured pearl technologies. China, Japan and USA are the largest producers of cultured pearls.
Freshwater Pearls and Saltwater Pearls
Freshwater pearls are grown by the insertion of irritants in mussels or small oysters grown in the freshwater farms. More than twenty pearls are produced by a single oyster through the freshwater pearl production technology. It takes between one and a half and two years to harvest freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are cheaper than the saltwater pearls.
In saltwater pearl farming, the irritants are inserted in big oysters and each oyster produces a single pearl. The process is expensive and it takes over two and a half years to get a good harvest.
Akoya pearls, commonly known as Japanese pearls, are the most popular pearls. The pearls up to 7mm in diameter are manufactured in China and the bigger pearls are generally made in Japan. These are saltwater pearls. Akoya pearls are round or near-round in shape, white and cream in color with pink and silver hues.
Oriental pearls, also known as the Persian Gulf pearls, are natural pearls. Historically, the Oriental pearls were the finest quality pearls in the world. Unfortunately, rise in pollution in the Persian Gulf has reduced the production of Oriental pearls.
South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls are produced in the South-East Asian countries, north Australia and French Polynesia. These seawater pearls tend to be the largest and the most expensive pearls in the world. The pearls harvested in South-East Asian countries have golden and light-yellowish shades, whereas, the Australian seawater pearls are silvery and white in color.
The legendary pearls of Tahiti are black in color. Harvested in the black-lipped oysters, the colors of Tahitian pearls are black, light black, and shades of grey.