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Real Pearls vs. Cultured Pearls

Posted by Kevin Canning on 11/3/2017
Real Pearls vs. Cultured Pearls

Hi, Kevin here…

Ok This one drives me crazy... 

People call me all the time and say:

"I don't want cultured pearls, I want REAL pearls".

So, here's the deal...

Apart from a very small collectors market in natural (wild pearls), all pearls bought and sold on the retail market are cultured pearls.

(a strand of natural pearls could sell for $1.0 million+)

Unless you're the Prince of Monaco,  cultured pearls are what you're looking for.


Cultured pearls are real pearls grown inside real oysters at pearl farms in Japan, Australia, Indonesia, China and many more locations. 

Natural/Wild Pearls are typically found by shellfish harvesters purely by accident. You might have to open 10,000 oysters to find a single decent quality natural pearl.

It's this rarity that gives them their high price tag, not necessarily their beauty.

Now where it get's confusing is some jewelers will refer to cultured freshwater pearls as just "cultured pearls"

and they will refer to cultured Akoya pearls  as "saltwater pearls" or "real pearls".

It's confusing and they know it. In fact, they do it on purpose.

They're trying to sell you a more expensive pearl (the Akoya).

And that's not to say that Akoya pearls are not a great choice. They're perfectly round and have incredible luster -- they're THE classic white pearl.

But I believe in giving you honest information, so you can make your own informed decision.

The 4 Main Types of Cultured Pearls...

Here is a quick run down on the 4 main types of cultured pearlsyou'll encounter while pearl shopping.

1. Akoya Pearls:

Top grade Hanadama AKoya pearls
When most people think about white pearls they are thinking about Akoya pearls- the are the classic white pearls. They are grown in saltwater off the coast of Japan.

Mikimoto and Tiffany's sells primarily cultured Akoya pearls.

If you want classic white, round pearls with high luster, buy Akoya pearls.

2. Freshwater Pearls:
Rare color Freshwater PEarls
If someone says they are offering "cultured pearls" but doesn't tell you a type of pearl,9/10 times they are cultured freshwater pearls.

These pearls come in white, peach, lavender, and recently some very exciting exotic colors.

Freshwater pearls used to be very low quality, but today freshwater pearl farmers are producing affordable pearls that rival the very best saltwater pearls.

My Gem Grade freshwater pearls are exceptional quality at about 1/3 the price of Akoya pearls.

3. Black Tahitian Pearls:
Peacock Tahitian Pearls

These are the only naturally "black" pearls.  It's important to understand that the term "black" is used to describe dark colored pearls, including silver, gray, green, blue & purples -- not necessarily a true black. 

They are grown in saltwater "atolls"off French Polynesia and Fiji. They aren't actually black but instead they are dark shades of gray, green, blue and purple.

They are large exotic pearls that just 20 years ago would have sold for $100,000/strand. Today with increased production the same strand can be purchased from me for $3000.

Related Blog Post:
3 Things you MUST know before buying Tahitian Pearls

4. White & Gold South Sea Pearls:

Top Grade South Sea Pearls

These are the "QUEEN of Gems" and the rarest of all cultured pearls. They are grown in saltwater off Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. 

These are BIG white or golden pearls, with deep  silky luster. Those huge pearls that Barbara bush, Nancy Pelosi or Oprah are famous for wearing - they're South Sea pearls.

The ultimate "power pearls". A strand of South Sea pearls tells the world you've made it.

If you want the very best pearls money can buy, South Sea pearls are it.

So... To reiterate, you DO want cultured pearls.

Your job is to figure out which kind of cultured pearls you want.


Reader Comments

Date 2/8/2018
Ranga Reddy
Very informative. Thank you.
Date 2/22/2018
Manshi Dubey
Nice Post!!! Pearl bracelets design and collection is unique and very attractive. Thank you for providing this information. Keep it Up. https://indiarush.com/pearl-bracelets-for-women/
Date 4/18/2018
Sharon Smith
Yeah, Good information I have some idea, I got through this Timeless Pearl" The cultured pearl market is broken down into saltwater cultured pearls Pearls are unique. When you look at each pearl on a necklace, the color, shape, size, and luster the pearls are not all exactly the same. Because they have been made by nature, each pearl has its individual “personality.” Fake pearls usually have the same size and shape.
Date 6/26/2018
Hello sir I bought pearl on online they said it is cultured pearl or freshwater and it is different color like pink,purple it’s quite pretty but I just want to know is it real and they have been dyed or just plastic beads thank you.
Date 8/27/2018
Janet Biehl
I have a string of pearls that are white and have all different textures and lines on each one. Is this a natural pearl? Interesting information. thank you.
Date 9/6/2018
Samir Taunk
Excellent Information and up-to the mark. You have kept the information like KISS..... Kept it short and sweet
Date 9/6/2018
Samir Taunk
Excellent Information and up-to the mark. You have kept the information like KISS..... Kept it short and sweet
Date 9/23/2018
Janie riggs
What kind of pearls would be sold at bloomingdales that are a 18” strand of baroque and twin pearls in the colors pink lavender and white. Also, how would a person go about getting a fair price for them? Thank you.
Date 10/16/2018
nichole scovill
Im looking for some information i have a strand on natural rose perals. Could some on email me with some information? Thanks
Date 10/24/2018
Jolene Hale
I have a necklace of the strains of pearls one which is a red or wine color. I don't have a clue about what type of pearls they are not even the white ones. Because they are not the perfect round white one. I would like to take a picture and send it to you so maybe I can find out what kind of pearls I have.
Date 12/1/2018
This is the information I was searching for since months!
Date 1/8/2019
Jed Santos
Good day. I have a pearl necklace which consists of 148 pieces of pearls in it. It was from my grandmother who got it as a 21st birthday present from her grandmother. I just don't know what kind of pearl is it. I tried to search for its kind and I can't find any results regards the pearl necklace I have. I would like to take a picture and send it to you so maybe I can find out what kind of pearls I have.

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