For those who are not familiar with the world of pearls, understanding the differences between freshwater and saltwater pearls can be overwhelming. Don't worry since we're here to help! In this blog, we will attempt to give an overview of the main differences between freshwater pearls and their saltwater counterparts. This way, it will be easier for you to decide which type is best suited to your style and budget.

Let us take a closer look at all of these factors so that you are able to make an informed decision when purchasing pearls.

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Main Differences Between Freshwater vs. Saltwater Pearls

  1. Origin of the pearl: This is the first difference between the two. The freshwater variety is grown in mussels found in natural rivers and lakes, primarily in China, with the exception of Biwa pearls, which come from Lake Biwa in Japan. Saltwater ones, on the other hand, are sourced from oysters in the ocean and are formed in protected bays and lagoons near countries like Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, French Polynesia, and Australia.

  2. The shape of the pearl: The second obvious differences between the two pearl types are their shape. The shape of freshwater pearls is generally irregular because they are formed around a piece of natural tissue, while saltwater pearls are formed around a spherical bead.

  3. The luster: The way each of these pearls is formed also determines its luster, with freshwater ones having a softer, dewy luster and saltwater pearls having a brilliant, lustrous shine.

  4. The color: This factor is determined by the inner nacre of the shell they grow in, resulting in a wide range of natural colors, while the colors of saltwater pearls depend largely on the type, with Akoya pearls being blue or gray, Tahitian pearls being dark and iridescent, and South Sea pearls being either silvery white or golden.

  5. The worth or price of the pearls: This is perhaps the biggest difference between freshwater and saltwater pearls – their value. The former is produced in much larger volumes, with between 6 and 120 pearls forming in a single mollusk, while the oysters that produce saltwater pearls tend to produce just one pearl in their entire lifetime. 

  6. The rarity: Saltwater pearls are harder to farm and more scarce, making them more expensive than freshwater pearls. It is important to note that the common belief that saltwater pearls are all natural and the freshwater kinds are all cultured is a misconception, as both types are often cultured by humans.

Types of Pearls

The majority of pearls, whether they are natural saltwater or freshwater ones, are referred to as "cultured pearls" or "cultured freshwater pearls" rather than natural. This is because a small piece of freshwater mollusk tissue is manually inserted to stimulate the nacre to cover the irritant and produce a pearl. This method is much more reliable for pearl farmers than waiting for a pearl to form on its own.

For those who are not familiar, a mollusk produces layers of nacre inside its shell, which bond together to create a stunning pearl. The fact that a pearl is a natural or saltwater cultured pearl does not affect the overall quality of the pearl. Instead, it is the quality of the nacre that determines the pearl's overall appearance.

How Do You Choose a Pearl?

When considering the variety of pearls available on the market, it could get confusing to choose.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind during the process:

  1. Luster: The brilliance of a pearl is determined by the quality of its reflection, making it one of the most aesthetically pleasing features of this gem. 

  2. Size: The size of a pearl is a matter of personal preference in jewelry selection; larger pearls are suitable for necklaces, while smaller beads can be used to decorate earrings. Keep in mind the fact that the pearl’s price will increase with its size. 

  3. Uniformity: When selecting a piece of jewelry containing multiple pearls, such as a necklace or earrings, it is important to ensure that they are similar, if not exactly the same, in shape and size. However, if you are aiming for a Boho or shabby chic look, a mixture of different types of pearls may complement your style perfectly.

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Pearl Grading

To choose the right pearls, it is important to understand pearl grading, which is the most challenging part of the process. Unfortunately, there is no standard system for grading pearls, so each jeweler or supplier has their own process to rank the quality of the luster, surface, shape, and color of the pearl. You must consider all of these factors when making your decision. 

However, the Tahitian pearl is an exception to this rule since the government of French Polynesia controls its grading and exportation, making the classification process clearer.

Freshwater Pearls: An Overview

Named for their origin in fresh bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and ponds, these pearls are produced by mollusks that live in these environments. Such mollusks can make up to 50 freshwater pearls at once! Most of these are produced in China. Unlike their saltwater counterparts, they require an irritant to be inserted into the mollusk to begin the pearl-making process. This can take up to four to six years.

Saltwater Pearls: An Overview

Saltwater pearls, also called Akoya pearls, are produced by the Akoya mollusk and are found in bays, inlets, and atolls across Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, and Tahiti. Along with Tahitian and South Sea pearls, they make up the category of saltwater pearls.

Compared to its freshwater counterpart, a saltwater pearl will have a faster organic growth period, taking only between six and 18 months. It is more likely to be perfectly round and ranges in size from four to ten millimeters, offering a wide range of options for buyers.

Types of Freshwater Pearls

Known for their elegant shapes, soft luster, and pastel colors, these pearls are available in a wide range on the market and on the Beads of Cambay website.

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Let us have a look at the different types you can choose from:

From holes of various sizes, like 1.5 and 2.5mm, these large hole pearls are a great option if you want to make jewelry that requires more space for a thicker thread. At Beads of Cambay, you will find this type of pearls in many colors and luster.

The trendiest out of all the pearls in the market right now, these are worth trying out. Any jewelry or even decor made using baroque pearls is sure to attract attention!     

These are small pearls that form as by-products during the pearl cultivation process, and they do not have a nucleus. The word "Keshi" is of Japanese origin and also means "poppy." In the past, keshi freshwater pearls were specifically referred to as pearls that were formed when the mollusk rejected the bead nucleus during cultivation.

Available in an assorted selection of colors and textures, coin freshwater pearls are easily one of the more unique choices. Used to make jewelry as well as DIY projects, this pearl is also used to make cufflinks for men.

Different types of Freshwater Pearl Colors

Pearls come in a myriad of different colors and hues. Let us take a look at the color options that are considered the most beloved and trendy at the moment:  

Champagne Freshwater Pearls

If elegance is on your mind, then these pearls in a subtle champagne color would be a perfect choice. Available in different shapes and hole sizes, a wide variety awaits you at Beads of Cambay.

Green Freshwater Pearls

These pearly beads are truly captivating and unique to the eyes. What is more, green freshwater pearls are available in different shades of green on our online store.

Blue Freshwater Pearls

The soothing color that represents calmness, blue freshwater pearls are a huge hit among trendsetters and icons alike. Due to the variety of shades available on our website, you will surely be spoilt for choice when browsing these blue beauties.

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What About Other Kinds of Pearls?

There are other types of exquisite gems, such as Tahitian pearls, which are grown in French Polynesia and are the only naturally occurring dark pearls. Interestingly, despite being referred to as "black pearls," Tahitian pearls come in various uncommon colors.

If you desire a round pearl, Tahitian pearls are not the ideal choice, as they are considered rare in a spherical shape.

However, if you are intrigued by pearls with unique shapes, such as drops, baroque, or oval, then Tahitian pearls are an excellent option. Tahitian pearls typically range in size from 8mm to 15mm, regardless of their shape.

Alternatively, you may consider South Sea pearls, which are mainly cultivated in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. These stunning freshwater cultured pearls come in shades of white to gold. There is something special about these pearls because of their enormous size. However, perfectly round South Sea pearls are incredibly rare due to their size.

How to Take Care of Your Pearl?

Pearls are undoubtedly among the most exquisite and delicate gemstones in the world. Unlike other gems like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, pearls are entirely organic and are formed within living creatures such as oysters, clams, and mussels.

Due to their organic nature, pearls are very delicate and require careful handling to ensure their longevity. Proper care and maintenance of pearl jewelry are critical to keeping them looking their best and preventing damage.

One of the most interesting things about pearls is that they are highly susceptible to damage from substances like perfumes and hairspray. These substances can dull the shine and luster of pearls and ultimately shorten their lifespan. As a result, it is advisable to keep such harsh products away from your precious pearls.

Pearls should be properly cared for if you want them to last a long time. One useful tip is to acquire a pearl-care kit that typically comes with specific instructions on how to handle and maintain your pearls. All you need to maintain your pearls' appearance is included in these kits, including gentle cleaners, polishing cloths, and storage solutions.

When handling your pearls, it is essential to do so with great care. Do not expose them to extreme temperatures, moisture, or direct sunlight, as this can damage their delicate surface. Instead, store your pearls in a soft pouch or cloth bag away from direct light and heat sources.

It is also crucial to clean your pearls regularly using a gentle cleanser and a soft, non-abrasive cloth. Thus, ensure that you follow the instructions mentioned on your pearl-care kit or consult a professional jeweler for advice on how best to clean and maintain your pearls.

With proper care and maintenance, your pearls can last for many years and remain a part of your cherished jewelry collection. So, take the time to care for your pearls, and you will enjoy their exquisite beauty for years to come.

Choosing Between Freshwater Vs. Saltwater Pearls

Considering the differences between freshwater and saltwater pearls described above can help you determine which type is best for you. If you are seeking pearls for everyday use, a classic single-strand freshwater pearl necklace may be a suitable choice. It comes in various colors, and freshwater pearls can tolerate regular wear better than saltwater pearls, in addition to being less costly. 

You should also consider the irregular shape of freshwater pearls, which may appeal to those who like organic jewelry, whereas those who prefer perfection should go for saltwater pearls. Saltwater pearls are an excellent option for formal occasions and events because of their luster, which illuminates the face and gives it a stunning radiance. These pearls can be an ideal investment piece for special occasions, including an anniversary or birthday. A white gold and saltwater pearl design with small diamonds adds an unrivaled glamor quotient.

Find Your Perfect Pearls With Beadsofcambay 

Whether you prefer freshwater or saltwater, you can discover a plethora of exquisite pearl options at Beads of Cambay. Not only do we offer freshwater pearls and other types at the best prices, but also in the widest variety! Whether you're looking for classic pearl drop earrings, modern leather pearl pendants, or playful multi-strand pearl bracelets, there's something for everyone here!

You can explore the full collection online on the Beads of Cambay website from the comfort of your couch. And if you need any assistance, our team of experts can help you select the ideal color, shape, and size.

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May 10, 2023 — Arun Yadav widget logo