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All About Pearls: Natural Pearls

Image shows various types of natural pearls in necklace settings and cultured pearl stud earrings

Where Do Natural Pearls Come From?

Natural and cultured pearls both come from the same sources and are not artificially created. Cultured pearls come from mollusks that are bred and tended to by farmers in order to create pearls for harvest. Natural pearls are the result of no intention or assistance by humans, but only the phenomenon of the mollusk's normal processes.


Natural Pearl Origins

Before culturing became standard, people discovered pearls haphazardly by fishing for oysters and other mollusks. This makes natural pearls extraordinarily rare; only one in ten thousand oysters will create a pearl on its own.

Almost all natural pearls on the market today are vintage pearls and, due to their rarity, are expensive. When buying a natural pearl, make certain it comes with an official gemological x-ray certificate to prove it's natural.


Freshwater Cultured Pearls


Freshwater cultured pearls are the most plentiful and therefore the most affordable of all cultured pearls. The pearls are cultivated from mussels, primarily harvested in China. Each freshwater mussel produces up to 40 pearls while one saltwater mollusk produces only one or two.

Size & look

Freshwater cultured pearls used in jewelry typically range in size from 6mm to 12mm. Because of their culturing process, freshwater cultured pearls are seldom perfectly round. These pearls come in a myriad of color options, and may be dyed to create their colorful appearance. 



Tahitian Cultured Pearls


The black-lipped oyster creates these pearls. The mollusk's black pigment is responsible for the signature charcoal color the pearl develops. Because this oyster is particularly sensitive to the culturing process, these pearls cost more to produce.

Appearance & Defining Features

Tahitian pearls are known for their distinct black color with hints of pink, purple, blue and green in their sheen. People often describe the look of these pearls as uniquely beautiful and exotic. 


French Polynesia is where these distinctive cultured pearls are harvested.


Akoya Cultured Pearls


People consider the beauty of this pearl legendary. Native to Japan, the Akoya culturing process has been perfected by the Japanese, although others have adopted the process in other parts of Asia. Akoya cultured pearls are commonly used in strands and other jewelry that requires round, symmetrical or uniform pearls. 

Mollusk type

Named for its mollusk, this pearl comes from the Akoya oyster. The Akoya itself and the nature of its environment produce the pearl's beautiful results. 

Size & look

On average, an Akoya pearl will be about 6mm in size. Famous for their sheen, these pearls are also prized for their color and creamy luster. Classic white or cream are the most common colors, but you're also likely to find overtones of rose, silver or ivory. Akoya cultured pearl necklaces are available in a variety of lengths, the most popular being the 14-16" choker and the 17-19" princess.


South Sea Cultured Pearls

South Sea cultured pearls are farmed primarily from oysters found in Australia and the Philippines. These pearls are highly valued for their size and glowing appearance. 

Appearance & defining features

Due to the large size of the oyster, this variety of pearl tends to be larger as well. South Sea pearls have a distinct sheen, or glow, and come in a variety of hues, the most popular being white and gold. 



Shop Natural Pearls

Jared offers a wide variety of natural pearl jewelry designs. Pearl jewelry never goes out of style! The pearl is also the June birthstone and would make a great gift for someone special. Stop by a Jared store near you to see natural pearl jewelry options.