What Is The Difference Between Natural, Cultured And Shell Pearls?

What Is The Difference Between Natural, Cultured And Shell Pearls?

Today, pearls are regarded as both classic and contemporary, coming in many more fashionable styles than your grandmother's traditional strand of pearls.

Learning about types of pearls is important when adding items to your jewelry collection.


Natural Pearls

A natural pearl is formed organically when an irritant or parasite finds itself inside the oyster's soft tissue muscle accidentally. This irritant, such as seawater sand or dust, activates the oyster's defense mechanism, causing it to produce layers of secretions. The secretion (also called nacre) after a few years develops into a natural pearl.

Natural pearls are rare and require serious persistence to find. It can take more than 100,000 of these deep-sea-living creatures to make just one strand of pearls. And, with so many sea-borne predators, ocean-pollution, oyster divers and other factors that cause premature death for the animals, finding quality gems when diving for pearls is quite rare these days.

As a result, the demand and the value of natural pearls is set to go through the roof. The rarity of the gemstones increases the costs, making them not affordable to most.

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Cultured Pearls

A cultured pearl results from the process by which a pearl farmer induces pearl formation by inserting an irritant into the soft tissue of te oyster. From there, the layers of nacre are formed naturally, just like with natural pearls. Cultured pearls are real pearls that were not formed by accident of nature. Most pearls sold today are cultured.

FACT: Kokichi Mikimoto was the first man to create a cultured pearl. The Japanese entrepreneur tested out various methods for two centuries 

There are two basic varieties of cultured pearls: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls come from oysters that mature in non-saline water (lakes or ponds, as opposed to saltwater from the sea). Freshwater pearls usually are not as round as saltwater pearls and therefore less expensive. However, the past two decades have seen a huge increase in their quality for a number of reasons, but mostly because in the mid 1990's the pearl-farming industry changed the type of mussels they used and lowered the number of grafts inserted in the mussel, and thereby the number of pearls produced. Freshwater pearls today are a favorite of jewelry designers because of their lower cost and improved quality and availability.

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Shell Pearls

Shell pearls are made from the inner lining of oyster shells, also known as Mother of Pearl. The substance is ground to a fine powder, shaped, dyed and coated with natural pearl nacre and then a protective coating to give it lustre. Shell pearls vary in quality but may be quite beautiful and much less expensive than saltwater pearls. In addition, shell pearls will always keep their color and shine and will not be affected by sweat and perfume. Indeed, they are more durable than cultured pearls.

What are Shell Pearls? Shell Pearls are Synthetic, Fake Pearls


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