What is the Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls?

anlenejewelry Mar 31, 2024

Pearls are round and lustrous, softly shining, combining exquisite quality with fashionable design, stringing together every surprising and touching moment, making love forever pure and romantic as if seeing each other for the first time.

But Do you know the differences freshwater vs saltwater pearls?

The distinction between saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls does not refer to whether they are natural or cultured; it simply refers to their source. Natural pearls and cultured pearls can be further classified as saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls.

Focusing on distinguishing between freshwater and saltwater pearls, first, we need to understand that both are organic gemstones formed primarily of aragonite (a calcium carbonate mineral), a small amount of organic material (mainly proteins), and some trace elements, grown by mollusks based on their own habits. Freshwater pearls are cultivated by implanting small pieces of mantle tissue into the mantle tissue of the mother shelf, resulting in pearls without a nucleus. This cultivation method yields a large quantity, but the pearls are smaller in size and vary greatly in shape. Saltwater pearls are cultivated by inserting a complete spherical nucleus into the mantle tissue of the mother shell, and after a period of growth, a nucleated pearl is formed.

Saltwater pearls are formed within oysters living in the ocean, usually harvested in Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, China, Japan, French Polynesia, and the islands of the South Pacific. Saltwater pearl oysters can be cultivated in volcanic atolls and protected lagoons. These pearls require a longer growth period, but they have better luster, meaning their quality is higher than that of freshwater pearls. The disadvantages of saltwater pearls include thinner nacre, lower durability compared to freshwater pearls, and a longer cultivation period with higher costs, resulting in higher prices.

Freshwater pearls are formed within various freshwater mussel species living in lakes, rivers, ponds, and other freshwater sources. They are usually produced in China, Japan, Australia, India, and the United States. This type of pearl is more affordable, with a shorter formation period, but they usually lack the roundness and luster of saltwater pearls and exhibit more imperfections.

Summarize saltwater vs freshwater pearls:

1. Composition:
   - Saltwater pearls have a nucleus, with thinner nacre around the pearl.
   - Freshwater pearls, except for Edison pearls, are generally nucleus-free, consisting entirely of nacre. Edison pearls are nucleus-containing freshwater pearls.

2. Origin:
   - Saltwater pearls grow in open natural seawater. Freshwater pearls mainly grow in rivers, lakes, and ponds.

3. Classification:
   - Saltwater pearl varieties: Akoya pearls, Mabe pearls, Tahitian black pearls, Australian South Sea pearls, and South Sea golden pearls.
   - Freshwater pearl varieties: Nucleus-free freshwater pearls and Edison pearls.

4. Different Colors:
   - Saltwater pearls come in white, gold, black, and silver tones, with black, silver-blue, and gold being absent in freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are mainly white, orange-pink, and purple-pink.
   - Edison pearls, under the premise of having a halo effect, exhibit rich colors, such as deep purple, bronze, and violet.

5. Different Shapes:
   - Saltwater pearls are rounder and larger, while freshwater pearls have more diverse shapes, such as oval, button, and rice-shaped, with fewer being close to perfectly round. However, in recent years, with advancements in technology, freshwater pearls with a nucleus have also been cultivated, such as Edison pearls, which are large (usually over 10 millimeters in diameter) and round.

6. Different Luster:
   - Saltwater pearls have better luster and a more intense and water-like luster, while the luster of freshwater pearls is relatively soft.

7. Different Values:
   - Saltwater pearls are influenced by uncontrollable factors in seawater environments, requiring a longer cultivation time, and generally, only one pearl is produced per oyster. Freshwater pearls are cultivated in relatively stable and controllable environments, resulting in a shorter cultivation time (4-5 years for saltwater pearls, 2-3 years for freshwater pearls). Freshwater pearls have a higher yield and lower value compared to saltwater pearls. Saltwater pearls have higher value due to their complex cultivation environment and greater susceptibility to natural conditions, resulting in lower production but higher value. However, with the improvement of freshwater cultivation technology, high-quality freshwater pearls can also have luster and shapes comparable to some saltwater pearls.

Collection list

Pearl Necklaces
Indulge in timeless elegance with our lustrous freshwater pearl necklace, meticulously crafted to perfection.
Freshwater Pearls
Discover our modern, versatile, and affordable freshwater pearl jewelry, directly selected from the source for high quality and good luster