5 Different Types of Pearls: Colors, Shapes, Value
Pearls, known as the "Queen of Gems" play an irreplaceable part in the jewelry industry.
Pearls look classy and elegant with both western & ethnic attire. They have captivated the hearts of women for thousands of years.
And today, men admire pearl jewelry equally as women. They are precious and can pass from generation to generation.
When buying pearls or pearl jewelry, you will notice that they are available in different colors and shapes. And deciding which one is original and the right option for you could be very confusing.
This guide will give you complete information about different types of pearls and their features. It will allow you to shop pearls wisely.
👉 Fun Fact: Pearls are the only gemstone in this world that comes from Living Creatures.
Pearls are formed in the soft tissue of shelled mollusk- A diverse animal group that includes gastropods, clams, mussels, oysters, and conchs. When shelled mollusk wants to protect itself against irritants, it secretes layers of lustrous nacre over irritants. Over time, these layers form a pearl.
➤ Difference Between Natural Pearls v/s Cultured Pearls
There are two main types of pearls- Natural and Cultured.
♦ Natural Pearls:
Natural Pearls form in the bodies of certain mollusks naturally, without any involvement of humans. It is a time-consuming process and can take years to form a single pearl.
♦ Cultured Pearls:
Cultured Pearls are formed through farming and harvesting processes. Pearl farmers raise the mollusks in pearl farms with conditions similar to nature. The mollusks require timely human intervention and care. Here, the irritants are carefully embedded into the mollusks, and the rest process is accomplished naturally.
👉 Fun Fact: The first-ever cultivated pearl was created in Japan by Kokichi Mikimoto in the 1890s.
Most pearls in the market today are cultured pearls. Natural pearls are extremely rare and can be very expensive. Most people couldn’t afford natural pearls, so many pearl jewelry sellers deal with cultured pearls.
➤ Which out of natural pearls and cultured pearls are better?
Basically, there is no difference between these two types. They have identical compositions and appearances. The only difference you might see is related to their origin and prices.
👉 Fun Fact: It is believed that only 1% of pearls used for jewelry making are Natural.
➤ Types of Pearls:
There are mainly 5 major types of Cultured Pearls - Freshwater, Tahitian, Akoya, South Sea, and Sea of Cortez.
1. Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater Pearls are known for their beautiful rainbow natural colors. These are available in various sizes and shapes. These pearls are less expensive than saltwater cultured pearls, and that’s why you will notice them in most pearl lovers’ jewelry collections.
Freshwater Pearls are produced by Cristaria plicata mussels and Hyriopsis cumingi and schlegeli, found in Japanese and Chinese lakes, rivers, and pearl farms. These mollusks are approximately the size of a human hand and can produce about 32 pearls simultaneously.
Natural Freshwater pearls are found in various sizes as small as 3.0-4.0mm to as large as 12.0-13.0mm. However, a new category of freshwater pearls can have a larger size near 15.0mm, as the larger sizes of freshwater pearls are very rare and unique so they could be more valuable.
The most commonly seen colors of these pearls are pink, peach, lavender, and white. These are also found in rare rainbow colors. The authentic shape of these pearls is close to potato-shaped, rice-shaped, coin-shaped, and sometimes round, but you can also find them in baroque shapes. Depending on the shape, color, and size, these can range from $20 to $5000 or more in some special cases.
👉 Fun Fact: Freshwater pearls are produced by a Mussel and a single freshwater pearl mussel can produce 25 to 35 pearls at a time.
2. Akoya Pearls
Akoya Pearls are treasured for their perfectly round and reflective surface. They are shiny and bright and cultivated in saltwater water. The classic white appearance of Akoya Pearls makes them desirable in the jewelry industry.
Akoya Pearls are produced by Akoya or Pinctada fucata oysters that are only found on the coasts of Japan in the cold saltwater of the Pacific Ocean. This is the smallest pearl-producing oyster that's about the size of 3-5 inches in diameter. To cultivate Akoya pearls, a bead is surgically implanted in the gonad of the mollusk, along with a small piece of mantle tissue. The mollusk will coat the bead with layers of nacre, and within a few months, the Akoya pearls are formed.
Akoya Pearls are generally found in sizes between 3.0mm to 10mm. In very rare cases, it can be found in the maximum size of 10.5mm. Akoya pearl's authentic color is white, but it can be found in different colors such as silver, cream, pink, gray, gold, or blue as well. On rare occasions with a bit of great luck, you can find them in black, green, and some more exciting colors.
Mostly, Akoya pearls are found in two shapes - perfect round and semi-round but in rare cases, it appears as buttons, circles, or baroque. Akoya pearls are more expensive than Freshwater pearls and depending on the color and shape, these can range from $100 to thousands of dollars.
👉 Fun Fact: Akoya pearls are smaller in size as compared to other pearls due to the small size of Akoya oysters. Also, a single Akoya pearl takes 16 months to 3 years to be fully developed or mature completely. “Hanadama” is the best Akoya Pearls category as it is considered the highest grade of saltwater pearls.
3. Tahitian Pearls
Tahitian pearls are the most beautiful natural black cultured pearls globally. These are used for making the most exotic pearl jewelry. You will find them in pale dove gray to dark charcoal gray colors with beautiful peacock, green, silver, cherry, or blue-green overtones.
Tahitian pearls are harvested from rare black-lipped oysters at a special coastal water temperature of French Polynesia. These oysters can grow up to a foot in diameter, making Tahitian pearls one of the largest pearls of all types.
The authentic Tahitian pearls range in size from approximately 8 mm to 18 mm, whereas the sizes above 15.0mm are the rarest and most expensive. Tahitian pearls have an amazing color range that is available in deep black, gray, iridescent peacock, regal green, and aubergine colors.
When shopping for Tahitian pearls, look for free-form, circled, and smooth baroque shapes, as these are authentic. The price range of a strand of Tahitian pearls can cost between $400 to more than $30,000 depending on the size, color, and shape of pearls.
👉 Fun Fact: Tahitian pearls are the second most valuable farmed pearls and are considered among the largest pearls in the world.
4. South Sea Pearls
South Sea Pearls are one of the most treasured pearls of all types. They are available in white and golden colors. They are grown in the Coral Triangle, a specific part of treacherous water found between the Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia. These can range up to 20mm, making them the largest pearls in the world.
South sea pearls are farmed in Pinctada maxima oyster, which comes in white-lipped and gold-lipped varieties. They can grow up to a foot in size at maturity that's the reason why these pearls are so huge. Only wild mollusks are bred for South sea pearls to maintain the genetic diversity of the mollusk population.
South Sea pearls are available in 9.0mm to 20.0mm sizes and their average size is 13mm. The rarest and most valuable South Sea pearls are found in round shapes, which can range up to tens of thousands.
On the other hand, other shapes, like drop, pear, semi-round, free-formed baroque, circled baroque, and smooth baroque, are the most common and can cost between $200 or more depending on quality.
You should also check their colors. These are found in various varieties with White or Gold shades like a blue-white, silver-white, off-white, light cream, honey gold hue, lightly golden, and deep golden.
👉 Fun Fact: South Sea pearl takes a minimum of two years to mature completely. Due to the longest time of cultivation process, they have a larger size compared to Akoya pearls.
5. Sea of Cortez Pearls:
Sea of Cortez Pearls is cultivated in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. These are one of the rarest cultured pearls worldwide because of their natural intense hues and overtone. These pearls are only farmed in the Gulf of California's coastal city of Guaymas, Mexico. Apart from Tahitian pearls, Sea of Cortez Pearls are the only pearls that are naturally found in black color.
The authentic size of Sea of Cortez pearls can range from 8.3 mm to 9.8 mm sizes. The average size of Sea of Cortez pearls is 8.9mm and the larger size can be 14.3 mm. These are available in one of the rarest color palettes, including Blue-Green, Green, Pistachio, Mauve, Rose, Copper, Aubergine, and Lime colors.
Sea of Cortez pearls are available in both round and baroque shapes. But finding them in round shapes is very rare whereas semi-baroque shapes are common. The round-shaped pearls are the rarest, that's why they are expensive in cost while baroque or smooth drop shapes are easily available at decent prices.
👉 Fun Fact: Sea Cortez pearls are different from other pearls because these are the only pearl types globally that fluoresce under UV light. Apart from Sea Cortez pearls, other pearls do not glow under ultraviolet (UV) light.
➤ What Are Baroque Pearls?
Another famous type of pearl you will find in the market is Baroque Pearls. In the market, you will find traditional shapes and baroque shapes of pearls. Traditional pearls are generally round, while baroque pearls are irregular and non-spherical in shape.
Here are common types of Baroque pearls:
♦ Twin Pearls: Twin Pearls are two pearls fused to form one. They can be mismatched or symmetrical in shape.
♦ Coin Pearls: Coin pearls are flat, round pearls with smooth and reflective surfaces.
♦ Rice Pearls: Rice Pearls are small rounded specimens that are used for designing minimalistic jewelry. This type is the smallest in size.
♦ Egg Pearls: Egg pearls look just like eggshells. These have a bottom-heavy appearance.
♦ Heart Pearls: Heart pearls have a flat and reflective appearance forming the heart shape. These are generally used for designing romantic theme jewelry.
♦ Keshi Pearls: Keshi Pearls are one of the rarest types of baroque pearls. These are elongated pieces with remarkable luster.
👉 Fun Fact: The price range of Baroque pearls depends on their color and luster. The white and pink baroque pearls are the most common, and that’s why they are the least expensive, while the baroque pearls in darker shades are more expensive.
➤ Final Word:
Now, you know there are different types of pearls, and each has a different origin, size, color, shape, and price range. You can select the right pearl type depending on your favorite type of jewelry. A few criteria to consider are the level of luster, surface quality, shape, and size of the pearl.
You can select Tahitian pearls or Akoya pearls for traditional pearl jewelry. Other pearl types will look better with western pearl jewelry patterns. However, there are no hardcore rules with pearl jewelry selection. You can choose whatever you like and follow the trends. Integrate the pearl jewelry with your style, and you are good to go.
You can also see our great collection of pearl jewellery at Bharat Pearls We have a fine and good quality pearls jewelry collection that surely will win your heart.
We hope this guide to types of pearls will allow you to make a better selection for your next pearl jewelry purchase.