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The Wide World of Pearls, Our 102nd Issue: What's the Difference Between Real Pearls and Cultured Pearls?



"A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls." -  CoCo Chanel


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You Asked ...

Every day we receive questions from customers all over the world about pearls. We decided to post our answers here for every one to read!

What's the Difference Between Real Pearls and Cultured Pearls?

Pearl Diver Hunting for Pearls



We Answer:

Pearls have been treasured for centuries for their timeless beauty and elegance. When it comes to pearls, there are two primary categories: natural and cultured.

Understanding the distinctions between these two types of pearls can enhance your appreciation for these precious gems and inform your purchasing decisions. Let's delve into the unique characteristics of each.


Natural Pearl Enamel and Diamond Art Nouveau Necklace

Photo courtesy of 1st Dibs

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls are rare and captivating treasures of the ocean.
They form when an irritant, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, enters an oyster or mollusk. In response, the mollusk secretes nacre, a lustrous substance that gradually coats the irritant layer by layer over several years. This process creates a pearl with a unique, organic shape and a remarkable iridescence.
Natural pearls are renowned for their rarity and individuality, making them highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs. Their scarcity is attributed to over-harvesting in the past, which has led to their protected status today.

Harvesting a Cultured Tahitian Pearl


Cultured Pearls 

Cultured pearls, on the other hand, are the product of a controlled and sustainable process.
To create cultured pearls, pearl farmers intentionally introduce a small bead or piece of mantle tissue into an oyster or mussel. The mollusk then responds by secreting layers of nacre, just as it would with a natural irritant. This process allows for consistent production of pearls with various shapes, sizes, and colors.
Cultured pearls are more readily available than natural pearls, making them accessible to a wider audience. The controlled environment in which they are grown ensures quality and minimizes the impact on natural pearl-bearing populations.

Pearl Farming: Cleaning Tahitian Pearl Oysters on a Long Line

Why You Should Love Cultured Pearls

The cultured pearl industry plays a crucial role in preserving the oceans and supporting local economies.
By farming pearls, we reduce the need for harvesting wild oysters and mollusks, which helps protect marine ecosystems. Moreover, pearl farming provides sustainable livelihoods for countless coastal communities around the world.
Cultured pearls offer affordability without compromising on beauty and quality, allowing more people to enjoy these exquisite gems. Whether it's the classic elegance of Akoya pearls or the lustrous beauty of Tahitian pearls, cultured pearls offer a wide range of options to suit every style and occasion.
So, while natural pearls hold a special place in history and are cherished for their rarity, cultured pearls enable a broader audience to experience the timeless allure of pearls in an environmentally responsible way.

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Japanese Akoya Pearl Mel Dangle Earrings

White Akoya "Mel" Dangle Earrings

  • These modern "Mel" Dangle Earrings are mounted with lustrous Japanese Akoy pearls measuring 8.0 - 8.5 mm, handpicked for their radiant luster.
  • The pearls are mounted on the finest 14K gold.
  • These earrings are packaged in a beautiful jewelry gift box, and come with a Certificate of Authenticity.


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