Cultured pearls are gorgeous and inexpensive. They differ from “natural pearls” in that they are grown under controlled conditions. Cultured pearls often use a piece of another mollusk’s tissue to initiate the process. Natural pearls form under uncontrolled conditions and are rarer. But even cultured pearls have differences between each other, chiefly by origin. The two types of cultured pearls are saltwater and freshwater.
There are multiple types of saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls.
Saltwater pearls are formed by saltwater mollusks. The most common of these is the Akoya pearl from Japan and China. Akoya pearls are often instantly recognizable as the white, round pearls everyone is familiar with.
South Sea pearls range from white to gold, depending on the species. They are known to be larger and thicker but require more time and have limited output.
Tahitian pearls are taken from cultures in French Polynesia, mainly Tahiti. Though they are known as “black pearls”, this is a misnomer; Tahitian pearls can come in many colors and tints, but gray and brown are alternatives.
Although there are many types of saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls are the most common. Freshwater pearl popularity can be attributed to a wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. Furthermore, freshwater pearls are often cheaper and can be produced from a single freshwater mollusk than saltwater mollusks. China produces most of the world’s cultured freshwater pearls.
“Different Pearl Types & Colors | The Four Major Types of Cultured Pearls | GIA.” Gemological Institute of America, www.gia.edu/pearl-description.
“Pearls Forever Fashionable.” GIA, www.gia.edu/gia-news-research-Pearls-Forever-Fashionable.