Saltwater and Freshwater Pearls


Pearls can be produced in both freshwater and saltwater form and the differences between them make them both unique.

Freshwater pearls are formed in freshwater mussels found in bodies of freshwater - although they were originally produced in Japan, 90% of the world’s freshwater pearls now come from China. By contrast, as one would expect, saltwater pearls are formed in saltwater mussels or oysters found in bodies of saltwater primarily throughout central and southern Japan and along the coast of China. Pearls are truly a gift from the sea.

Saltwater pearls (also known as Akoya pearls) are what people typically imagine when thinking of "real" pearls. These pearls grow between 2.0 mm and 9.0 mm in diameter. Saltwater pearls are naturally less diverse in color than their freshwater counterparts. The overtones of the average Akoya pearl ranges from a pale pinkish white to cream to champagne to silvery gray. These pearls typically grow one per mollusk in contrast to the freshwater farms where each shell can produce up to one hundred pearls simultaneously - twenty at a time. Therefore, Akoya pearls are rarer and command a higher price tag. Spherical, and larger sized pearls also have greater value.

Pearls are cultivated through the use of finite irritants inserted into the mollusk and, as it attempts to dislodge this irritant, the layers of nacre grow on that irritant. The thicker, smoother and more lustrous this nacre is determines the quality of the cultured pearl produced.

Freshwater pearls are often thought of as "fun" pearls. Most grow in sizes from 2.0 mm to 5.0 mm in diameter and are irregularly shaped. With improving farming techniques, however, China is now producing nearly round white freshwater pearls in sizes up to 9.5 mm in diameter. Freshwater pearls are available in a variety of natural colors, mostly pastels, but are often dyed. The recent discovery that adding various metals to the water in which freshwater pearls are cultivated can produce even wider ranges of colors.

Pearl jewelry is a unique statement of perfection and grace and offers her wearer glamorous sophistication and timeless elegance. The exotic, lustrous skin of pearls that is so smooth and silky to the hand and eye embodies all that makes up the ultimate feminine energy. No other jewels makes the transition from day to evening as smoothly as pearls. In addition to the classic strands and stud earrings, single pearl pendants worn on a chain and pearl rings are also popular.

One should take special care when wearing pearls. Avoid exposure to heat and protect from pearls scratches and harsh blows. Avoid contact with chemicals, especially perfumes, perspiration and hair spray. To clean, wipe gently with a moist cloth. If the pearls have developed a film from lotions or make up, they can be cleaned in a solution of gentle soap and water then placed on a soft cloth to air dry before putting them away. Store pearls in a soft felt-like or chamois pouch and away from other metal and gemstone jewelry as it can scratch or damage pearls if it comes in contact with them. Pearls do need to be restrung periodically when their silk strand becomes frayed, stretched, dirty or broken. It is wise to have then strung with knots between the individual pearls. Properly cultivated pearls of the highest quality in both freshwater and saltwater varieties will hold their value provided they are well cared for.

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5121 Center Street, Suite 103
Williamsburg, VA  23188
(757) 229-7333