There are four main types of cultured pearls to consider when pearl shopping. Each type has its own characteristics and singular qualities. By familiarizing yourself with each type of pearl, you'll be able to make a selection that suits you best.
Akoya Pearls: These pearls represent some of the best cultured pearls available today. Known for their metallic luster and perfectly round shape, they are regarded as the classic white pearl. While most Akoya pearls are farmed in Japan, China and Vietnam both produce Akoya pearls as well.
Freshwater Pearls: Cultured freshwater pearls come mainly from China, usually without a bead nucleus (making them very durable). Pearl lovers are enchanted by the range of natural colors freshwater pearls boast, like lavender, pink, white and the myriad of dyed options. Quality varies greatly with freshwater pearls, so choose wisely. Low grade potato shaped pearls can be had for a few dollars while perfectly round gem grade pearls with metallic luster will command prices in line with Akoya pearls.
Tahitian Pearls: The only naturally "black" pearl, there's nothing like breathtaking Tahitian pearls for exotic beauty. While not actually black they come in a wide range of dark body colors(green, blue, purple, silver, peacock etc.). Starting in size around 8mm and ranging up to 18mm, Tahitian pearls provide a bold exotic look.
South Sea Pearls: Large, elegant with a silky luster South Sea pearls are often referred to as the "Queen of Gems". Grown in the warm waters Indonesia and Australia they average around 13mm with some pearls growing over 20mm. Their relative rarity and the high cost of production make South Sea pearls the most expensive type of pearl.