Black Tahitian pearls are mainly grown in the clear, warm waters of French Polynesia. They are grown in the large black-lip oysters found there. Tahitian pearls are rarer than other types of pearls, since only a small number of oysters survive to produce a fine pearl. Since each Tahitian pearl is very unique and does not resemble any other, it takes hundreds of pearls to find the similar ones required to make a strand.
Akoya Pearls are found only in Japan, China, and Vietnam. Japanese Akoya pearl farms are shifting towards the warmer Chinese waters, where these pearls take only half as long to grow. Overtone colors of Akoya pearls include white, cream, rose, silver, and green. Akoya pearl sizes range from less than 5mm to 9mm. Larger Akoya pearl sizes are possible, but less frequent.
These are almost always Akoya pearls. (Akoya is the Japanese word for Saltwater) These pearls are farmed in saltwater and are always grown in oysters. Saltwater pearls typically command a higher price than their freshwater cousins.
These cultured pearls are farmed in freshwater and are grown in mussels. The irritants used in making freshwater pearls are often smaller than those used in saltwater pearls, which results in a pearl with more nacre, or more pearl, and less core irritant. Freshwater pearls are typically cheaper because freshwater mussels are larger and can produce up to 20 pearls at a time, whereas saltwater oysters are smaller and can only produce one pearl at a time.
Made famous by Mikimoto, nearly all pearls sold on the open market are cultured. Cultured pearls evolve in a similar manner as natural pearls, with the distinction being that cultured pearls have an irritant intentionally placed by a pearl farmer to start the formation of a pearl. The process may take one to several years. Japan, China and various places in the South Pacific have traditionally been major suppliers of cultured pearls. All pearls sold on this website are cultured pearls.
NATURAL PEARLS (UNCULTURED)
These are the most rare form of a pearl. They form without human instigation. The process begins when an irritant positions itself inside the oyster. As a defensive measure, the oyster secrets layers of nacre which cover the irritant. This nacre forms the "pearl" as we know it. The amount, quality and shape of nacre that surrounds the irritant particle essentially determines the quality of the pearl. Because of their rarity and low demand, natural pearls can only be bought at estate auctions and through private dealers.
JAPANESE VS CHINESE AKOYA PEARLS
Japan is famous for its introduction and promotion of the cultured pearl. Unfortunately, pollution has devastated Japan's pearl harvests and has decreased the quality of their pearls. China initially started culturing pearls in the 1980's and is now producing pearls of equal and sometimes higher quality than many of the pearls coming from Japan. Since the waters in China are less polluted and warmer, Chinese pearls have a thicker nacre and often a higher luster. Some Japanese firms have even started importing Chinese pearls and labeling them as Japanese pearls since it is more expensive to grow the pearls in Japan.
WHITE SOUTH SEA PEARLS
White South Sea cultured pearls are grown in large tropical or semi-tropical oysters in Australia, Myanmar, Indonesia and other Pacific countries. These generally range in size from 10mm to 20mm and command premium prices because of their relative rarity and large size. They come primarily in white, yellow, yellowish orange, blue and some black tones. The overtones are rose, green and blue.
These are grown in Japan, China and the United States. They are hemispherical cultured pearls grown against the shell of an oyster rather than within the oyster's body. They generally are used in earrings or rings which conceal their flat backs.
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