"Cultured pearls" is a term sometimes used to describe saltwater Akoya pearls. However it really refers to all pearls (Freshwater and saltwater) that have been produced under human supervision of the mollusc, in contrast to pearls that have formed by accident and are known as natural pearls. So BOTH Freshwater pearls and Akoya pearls are CULTURED PEARLS.
Ask your retailer if the cultured pearls she's showing you are saltwater or freshwater. The differences between saltwater Akoya pearls and Freshwater pearls are as follows:
CULTURED AKOYA PEARLS:
- -Extremely high luster (shine);
- -perfectly round shape;
- -thin layer of nacre (pearly substance secreted by the animal to coat a nucleus made of bead shaped piece of shell);
- -more difficult to produce so rarer and more expensive;
- -the classic high quality pearls.
- -Luster varies according to quality - (very high quality ones have very high luster, albeit a softer luster than the Akoya pearls);
- -shapes are often off-round by varying degrees, the more perfectly round the harder to find and higher the price;
- -solid nacre all the way through the pearl with no nucleus (makes them more durable and some consider them closer to natural pearls);
- -easier to produce so prices are lower.
Both Freshwater pearls and Cultured Akoya pearls can be similar in size and are often seen as traditional white pearl necklaces. See video on the Difference between Akoya and Freshwater Pearls.