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Pearls 101

“A woman needs ropes and ropes of Pearls.” Coco Chanel


Pearls have always been a symbol of luxury and elegance. They embody the joy of life because they are the only gemstone created by an animal. As with most things, there are different varieties and colors of Pearls. Today, I want to clarify two terms with you, freshwater Pearls and saltwater Pearls.




We established in my blog, www.angelacisneros.com/post/cultured-pearls-vs-natural-pearls that almost all Pearls on the market today are cultured meaning that they are farmed in the ocean with humans inserting the irritant inside the mollusk that becomes a Pearl. Pearls can be farmed in both the freshwater of lakes and streams and the saltwater of the ocean. There are few main differences, although, technology advances are shoring up some of them.


Farming: Freshwater pearls are largely farmed by China in the freshwater lakes and rivers, while a saltwater Pearl (Akoya, South Sea, or Tahitian) are farmed in the oceans of Japan, the South Seas, and Tahiti. Freshwater Pearls take 6 months to grow with 30-50 Pearls forming inside a single mollusk. The saltwater Pearl takes 10-18 months with only one Pearl inside a mollusk. These Pearls tend to have a better quality nacre (layer of secretion from the mollusk) with a better luster (the glow) which is why they are more expensive than freshwater Pearls.


Molluks: As you might have guessed, the mollusk used to farm freshwater Pearls is a freshwater mollusk who could not survive in the ocean. Likewise, the saltwater mollusk could not survive in freshwater. There are differences in saltwater mollusks that grow the different types of saltwater Pearls (Akoya, South Sea, and Tahitian), as well. More on that in a later blog!


Colors: We traditionally think of Pearls as being white, but the different farming methods create different colors of Pearls. Freshwater Pearls can naturally be white, pink, and peach. Saltwater Pearls, depending on what type of mollusk used, can naturally be white, gray, golden, or black, which includes variant hues of gray, green, purple, and blue.


One of the things that amaze me about Pearls, especially in the saltwater varieties, is the weight or heft of the Pearl. Fine quality Pearls not only have a silky, soft feel to them, but they feel heavy. One of the easy tells of whether someone’s Pearls are real or not, is that they feel substantial, they are not lightweight!


I would love to help you with your special purchase or custom design! Angela Cisneros Jewelry Concierge brings back the joy and confidence of jewelry shopping, so that you can celebrate with ease! My by-appointment approach means:

  • One-on-one appointments (personal attention and no crowds!)

  • Discretion and privacy (surprises remain surprises!)

  • Expert help from a Graduate Gemologist with 24 years of experience (yep, that’s me!)

Book your FREE appointment with me today! www.angelacisneros.com/book-appointment


Photo Credit: gia.edu

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