Distinguishing Freshwater & Saltwater Pearls

Freshwater vs Saltwater Pearls

Pearls are naturally formed gemstones, created within the soft tissue of a mollusk through the deposition of concentric layers of calcium carbonate. For centuries, they have been considered objects of beauty and used in jewelry, clothing embellishments, medicines, paints, and cosmetics. While natural pearls are rare and valuable, cultured pearls are more common and are produced in both freshwater and saltwater environments. There are several differences between freshwater and saltwater pearls.

Key Takeaways

  • Freshwater pearls can come in various shapes and sizes, while saltwater pearls are mostly round.
  • Saltwater pearls are usually more expensive than freshwater pearls.
  • The nacre of freshwater pearls is generally thicker than that of saltwater pearls, resulting in more vibrant colors and a greater variety of shapes.

Freshwater Pearls

As the name suggests, freshwater pearls are formed inside mollusks found in freshwater bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and ponds. These cultured pearls are mostly produced in manmade environments, with China being a major producer of high-quality freshwater pearls. Unlike saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls do not have a nucleus and are entirely composed of nacre. This leads to a variety of colors being available, as metals can be added to the water used for pearl farming to create different hues. Freshwater pearls can be found in a wide range of shapes, although round ones are typically the most valuable.

Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls are produced by mollusks in saline environments, with key locations including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and the coastlines of India and Japan. The majority of saltwater pearls are cultured, with common varieties including Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls. The process of saltwater pearl cultivation involves inserting a small nucleus into the mollusk’s reproductive organ, along with a small mantle to encourage pearl growth. Saltwater pearls tend to be harder and shinier than freshwater pearls, but are generally less colorful and more expensive.

Although there are differences between freshwater and saltwater pearls, both types are highly valued for their beauty and uniqueness.

Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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