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Pearl Types

Pearl Types

Akoya Pearls

These are the pearls dreams are made of! They’re the popular, picture-perfect white pearls every woman wants and needs. These cultured saltwater beauties are ideal for weddings, galas, and heirloom traditions.


Akoya pearls can be found in almost every form of jewelry: bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces, pendants, etc. Many come in single, double, or triple strand versions. They can be worn with both casual and business attire, as well as formal wear. Akoya pearls are predominately found as pearl necklaces: 16” (choker) and 18” (princess).

A Brief History of Akoya Pearls:

Legendary Kokichi Mikimoto first began to mass produce cultured pearls in 1916. Akoya pearls have, indeed, been revered for more than a century as the classic pearl jewelry, and it all actually started in 1890 when Mikimoto began his first experimental farm venture on the tiny island of Benten-Shima.

We will forever be indebted to Mikimoto. He was a visionary, and he continuously sought to better and protect the global pearl industry. He knew the Akoya pearl wasn’t the only one out there, and he initiated projects that tackled the black-lipped mollusk, which is used on Tahitian pearl farms today. At age 96, he passed away but not before he credited his long life to the daily swallowing of a single cultured pearl.

5 Quick Facts:

  • Akoya pearls are very small in size, allowing for the highly reflective luster because the nacre is relatively thin.
  • Quality of an Akoya pearl is judged on the thickness of the nacre; how smooth,
  • clean and unblemished the surface is; and the brilliance and reflective properties of the nacre. Pearls that are above this standard may be certified as “Hanadama” pearls.
  • Clean strands of low luster Akoya pearls are actually less valuable than lightly blemished strands of pearls that boast fine luster.
  • Farms tend to leave their shells in the water 18 to 24 months. This is referred to as "koshimono," or “two seasons,” and it’s the optimal growth time for the fine nacre and high luster we treasure on Akoya pearls.
  • Akoya pearl shells are not “recycled.” Some shells are able to produce more pearls again, but with Akoya, it’s a one-time deal.

Akoya Pearl Specs:

Color: White or dyed black
Overtones: Ivory, rose, silver, blue, cream
Pearl Sizes: 3.0mm-11.0mm
Average Sizes: 6.0mm-8.0mm
Rare Sizes: 9.5mm - 11.0mm
Price Range: $80.00-$9,000.00
Quality (From High to Low): Hanadama, AAA, AA+
Country of Origin: Japan, more recently China
Mollusk Species: Pinctada fucata martensii, locally known as Akoya-gai

Gift Suggestions:

  • Suitable choice for one’s first pearls (white)
  • Good for someone who already owns pearls
  • Great for a connoisseur concerned with prestige and certain pearl types
  • Ideal for perfectionists (AAA quality or Hanadama)

Fashion Forward:

  • High executive office wear
  • Formal galas and balls
  • Evening elegance
  • Bridal attire

Freshwater Pearls

These metallic colored pearls make unusual and delightful gifts! Freshwater pearls have drastically improved over the years. They’re now cleaner, rounder, and more lustrous than ever before. Their wide variety and attractive price point make them the increasingly popular pearls.


Due to the abundance of Freshwater pearls and their relatively low prices, consumers can find this type of jewelry more widely available. The broad range of colors and shapes gives jewelers a chance to experiment and create very special, eclectic jewelry. The wildly unique baroque Freshwater pearls can always be found in the most interesting, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.

A Brief History of Freshwater Pearls:

No other cultured pearl has seen more change through the past twenty years than the Freshwater pearl. They were once grown using a tiny sliver of donor tissue, and that sliver was placed inside a host mussel’s mantle. This produced the non-beaded Freshwater pearls. However, the latest pearl innovations have led farmers to new methods. It’s similar to the saltwater pearl farming technique, and it produces the newer nucleated Freshwater pearls. Bonus: These Freshwater pearls are super durable!

The two types render a variety of colors, and the earlier form of harvesting dates back to 13th century China when the Chinese cultivated mabe pearls (a blister pearl) in the shape of Buddha himself. Isn’t it amazing that these pearls, which have been harvested for so many centuries, still are in the process of evolving today? Beauty is totally worth it!

5 Quick Facts:

  • As always, luster equals value. Freshwater pearls come in mute, chalky, and high luster qualities. They don’t have the same shine of the Akoya and South Sea varieties.
  • The best of Freshwater pearls are referred to as metallic because they actually possess a very radiant luster.
  • Freshwater pearls’ mirror-like surfaces can be quite misleading. When they’re perfectly round, some people confuse them with the finest of saltwater pearls. Phenomenal!
  • A single freshwater shell can create dozens of Freshwater pearls.
  • The Mississippi River holds many species of mussels that are employed around the globe for their pearl bead nuclei.

Freshwater Pearl Specs:

Color: White, pink, peach, lavender
Dyed Color: Black, red, gold, green, blue
Overtones: Rose, cream, ivory
Pearl Sizes: 3.0mm-14.0mm (widest range of all pearls)
Average Sizes: 6.0mm-9.0mm
Price Range: $40.00-$1,500.00
Quality (From High to Low): Freshwater Gem Grade, AAA, AA+
Country of Origin: China
Mollusk Species: Hyriopsis cumingi

Gift Suggestions:

  • Suitable choice for young children
  • Good for someone’s first pearls (white)
  • Great for one who has limited knowledge and isn’t concerned with prestige and certain pearl types
  • Ideal for colorful, celebratory moments like birthdays, graduations, and promotions

Fashion Forward

  • Acceptable daily wear
  • Around the office
  • Date nights
  • Wedding guest attire

Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian pearls are also known as the “black pearls.” They bear hundreds of overtones, such as peacock green, silver green, blue and eggplant. Dark and tempestuous, they make strands that are all-at-once beautifully mysterious and wildly untamed.


Tahitian pearls are striking “exotics,” and they’re extremely valuable in their different colors and sizes. Although Tahitian pearls are primarily referred to as “black,” that term is a little misleading: true black Tahitian pearls are exceptionally rare.

Tahitian pearls’ natural colors are charcoal, silver, and light grey, and they shimmer with various combinations and shades of these very colors. You may hear trade terms like peacock, aubergine, and pistachio. In any color, Tahitian cultured pearls are amazing gems of great beauty and make up some of the most stunning pieces of pearl jewelry.

A Nrief History of Tahitian Pearls:

Discovered in 1960, Tahitian pearls didn’t gain popularity until the late 70s and are still today among the largest pearls in the world, ranging in sizes from approximately 8.0mm to 18.0mm. It was actually Elizabeth Taylor and many other Hollywood stars that made these unconventional pearls a “must-have.”

Mikimoto himself attempted to grow these lovely black pearls back in the early 20th century, but success came in 1961 when French veterinary surgeon Jean-Marie Domard brought in Japanese techs to experiment with five thousand black-lipped mollusks. Salvador Assael was the first westerner to finally recognize the value of these gems, and suddenly, Tahitian pearls were widely known as the most valuable of all cultured pearls. Whoa! What a turnaround!

5 Quick Facts:

  • Tahitian pearls only earn that name if they’re grown in French Polynesia, even though the mollusk is widely employed throughout other parts of the South Pacific.
  • Originally, jewelers believed Tahitian pearls to be dyed. They didn’t give them a chance in the 1960s.
  • Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels were some of the first and finest to carry Tahitian pearl jewelry.
  • If you know Tahitian pearls, then you know the name Robert Wan. Wan descended from Chinese immigrants, and he became known as the “Mikimoto of Tahiti.” At one time, he produced half of the black pearls cultivated in French Polynesia.
  • You’ve heard of the Gold Rush, right? Thanks to Tahitian pearls, the 1980s became known as the “Pearl Rush.”

Tahitian Pearl Specs:

Color/Overtones: Pastel to dark grey, black, green, silver, peacock, copper, aubergine, etc.
Pearl Sizes: 8.0mm-16.0mm
Average Sizes: 9.0mm-14.0mm
Rare Sizes: Over 15.0mm
Price Range: $200.00-$10,000.00
Quality (From High to Low): AAA, AA+
Country of Origin: Islands of French Polynesia
Mollusk Species: Pinctada margaritifera

Gift Suggestions:

  • Suitable choice for one who already possesses pearls
  • Baroque is a good selection for that special artistic or eclectic someone
  • Great for a connoisseur concerned with prestige and certain pearl types
  • Ideal for perfectionists (round pearls of AAA quality)

Fashion Forward:

  • Some styles may be worn casually
  • Formal galas and balls
  • Evening art exhibits or wine tastings
  • Anniversary events

South Sea Pearls

Step right up! You’re looking at the royal family of pearls. South Sea pearls sing of luxury, and their large size makes them forever the queens of the ball. They are pure romance, softly shimmering in the classic colors of white and gold.


The incredibly large South Sea pearls are farmed between Northern Australia and the Southern Coast of China. They range in sizes, from 9.0mm up to a magnificent 20.0mm. It’s not uncommon to find baroque South Sea pearls that are larger than 25.0mm in diameter, making it among the largest sized pearls harvested in the world.

South Sea pearl jewelry is also some of the most exquisite jewelry you’ll find around the globe. Many enjoy this pearl jewelry in round or baroque South Sea pearl necklaces. The luster and size of a quality South Sea pearl are difficult to match. Though some may understand a full strand to be too expensive, there is a large selection of South Sea pearl pendants, which are more affordable. And the baroque jewelry, of course, gives jewelers an opportunity to create some truly unique, reasonably priced pieces.

A Brief History of South Sea Pearls:

Not surprisingly, South Sea pearls find their roots alongside the king of the cultured pearl—none other than Mikimoto. He actually referred to any and all pearls grown south of Japan as “South Sea,” but the term is no longer used for the black-lipped Tahitian pearls.

Mikimoto designed a project that would culture South Sea and Tahitian pearls in 1912, but nothing was very successful until after World War II. Today, you’ll find that South Sea pearl farming is centered in northwestern Australia, in the Philippines, and in multiple parts of Indonesia.

5 Quick Facts:

  • In 1992, a strand of twenty-three perfect Australian South Sea pearls went for the hefty price of $2.3 million. To this day, that is the highest price that’s ever been paid for a single strand of cultured pearls.
  • Underwater cameras are in place to monitor the environments and wellbeing of South Sea mollusks.
  • Australia is actually responsible for nearly half of all white South Sea pearls today. They’re also known for producing the absolute highest quality.
  • Recently, a South Sea white necklace, which was ten years in the making, was valued at $3,200,000.
  • The gold-lipped mollusk only produces its golden nacre during its peak, which is set in motion by a number of ideal environmental conditions. Bravo, nature! Well played.

South Sea Pearl Specs:

Color: White, gold
Overtones: Pink, green, blue
Pearl Sizes: 9.0mm-20.0mm
Average Sizes: 10.0mm-14.0mm
Price Range: $40.00-$20,000.00
Quality (From High to Low): AAA, AA+
Country of Origin: Australia and Indonesia (white); Philippines (gold)
Mollusk Species: Pinctada maxima, known as the “South Sea Pearl Oyster”

Gift Suggestions:

  • Suitable choice for someone who already owns pearls
  • Good for the exceptional gift
  • Great for a connoisseur concerned with prestige and certain pearl types
  • Ideal for perfectionists (round pearls of AAA quality)

Fashion Forward:

  • Once-in-a-lifetime occasions
  • Formal wear
  • Evening elegance
  • Award ceremonies
AA+ Quality Black Akoya Pearl Set, 6.5-7.0mm

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