Understanding Pearls Part 2

Published On: 
March 11, 2022
Japanese Akoya pearls.jp tokyo japan inside the oyster

Pearls.jp | Tokyo, Japan.

“There are two things which couldn't be made in my laboratory - diamonds and pearls.”

Thomas Edison
Pearls.jp tokyo Japan oyster


In this blog, we will be going through the four types of commercially available pearls with some extra content for the benefit of the curious reader. If you missed the first chapter, here’s the link.

Saltwater Pearls

Japanese Akoya pearls

Japanese Akoya pearls.jp, tokyo, Japan

The name Akoya Pearls comes from the Japanese Akoya oysters (scientifically known as Pinctada Fucata Martensii). No history of the Akoya pearls can start off without mentioning its founder Kokichi Mikimoto. He created the world’s first cultured Akoya pearl in 1893 by manually introducing an irritant into an akoya oyster to stimulate it to form a pearl. This created the opportunity for producing pearls in abundance. One needs to remember that up to that point, pearls  were virtually impossible to find due to over harvesting. That being said, Akoya pearls are actually quite rare. It happens to be the third most valuable type of pearl to be cultured and marketed. Actually, due to the plague in the water that resulted in the death of millions of oyster spats, larger Akoya pearls are even rarer nowadays - especially the higher quality ones (such as our HESTIA class necklace). 

Japanese Akoya Pearls.jp, tokyo, Japan. Necklace AAA

Akoya oysters produce only one or two pearls per harvest, therefore the production is very small compared to Freshwater pearls. They also suffer from a higher mortality rate. Akoya pearls are one of the smallest pearls, its nacre size ranges from 0.35mm to 0.7mm. 

What makes akoya pearls so desirable is the rich overtones and high luster. The pearls come in Pink, ivory, and silver overtones. In terms of luster, Akoya pearls are known for their highest quality luster among all types of pearls which makes them the most popular type of pearl.

 Akoya farms are found predominantly in Japan.

South Sea Pearls (white and gold)

Japanese Pearl Oyster pearls.jp tokyo japan


South Sea Pearls come from the South Sea pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima). South Sea Pearls are found in Australia, Philippians, and Indonesia. The oyster comes in two varieties: White/Silver lipped oysters and golden lipped oysters. The Silver-lipped South Sea pearl oysters produce pearls in white, silver, and aqua overtones. The Golden-lipped South Sea pearl oysters produce golden, champagne, and cream overtones. The silver lipped oysters are harvested along Australia and Indonesia while the golden lipped oysters are found mainly in Indonesia and Philippines. 

The Size of a South Sea pearl can be found in the range of 8 to 20 mm, in rare occasions even larger. They are the biggest commercially available pearls, their size correlates to the size of the oyster.

south sea multi color pearl necklace pearls.jp tokyo japan

Here's a lovely example of a necklace composed of both Golden and White South sea pearls. South Sea pearls have a softer luster compared to other pearls. They are also known to have the thickest nacre of all cultured pearls. The growth of pearls to maturity takes about two to four years. They are also susceptible to diseases making it difficult to obtain the pearls. Many pearl farmers have tried to culture pearls outside of the region, but failed to do so as the South Sea pearl oysters would not survive outside their native, natural environment. By considering all these factors, South Sea pearls are the rarest and most expensive to acquire compared with other cultured pearls.

Tahitian Pearls

Black tahitian pearls.jp tokyo Japan. necklace on an oyster

Black pearls from the Black-lip pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) are commonly known as Black Pearls or Tahitian Pearls. These pearls have the biggest range of overtones including:  green, dark black, cherry, silver, gun metal and peacock. Tahitian pearls are found in French Polynesia mainly in the island of Tahiti hence the name. Tahitian pearls often grow 2 mm of nacre all the way around the bead nucleus. They are the second most valuable commercially farmed pearls in the world. They are the only naturally found black pearls.

Black Tahitian Pearls.jp tokyo japan. Necklace Asteria

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are the most affordable pearls in the market. They are not as round as compared to their saline relatives and come in all shapes and sizes. One major difference between saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls is the mollusk that produces the pearls. Mussels are the most common mollusks used in the formation of pearls while Oysters are used in the case of saline pearls. Freshwater pearls are mostly harvested in China.

Extra Content for the curious reader.

Keshi pearls

Keshi pearls are those types of pearls that do not have a nucleus. Due to the lack of a nucleus, their shapes and sizes are vastly varied and this often creates a mistake to think of it as a freshwater pearl. Keshi pearls are the byproducts of the culturing process. They can be found both in freshwater and saltwater mollusks. They are very similar to Baroque pearls, without the volume that comes with a nucleated pearl. They are often regarded as natural pearls, but they are cultured as well.

Tahitian Natural Keshi Pearls.jp tokyo, Japan. Necklace

Hanadama pearls 

These are pearls that have the highest grade of luster and are as close to being flawless in any way possible. The name “Hanadama” is given by the pearl laboratory to authenticate its rarity when the pearls pass a series of meticulous examinations. There is no denying the beauty that comes with the hanadama pearl.

Japanese Akoya Pearls.jp tokyo japan Strand AAA

Edison pearls

Edison pearls are the most recent addition in the market. They come from  freshwater mollusks that are often compared to the south sea oysters due to their ability to produce large pearls. They are produced mainly in China. Edison pearls are the products received when they are nucleated with a single bead. Despite them being from freshwaters, Edison pearls are rounder and are the closest in appearance to a South Sea pearl. 

Rarest of the rarest pearls: Melo pearls

Melo pearls are one of the rarest pearls ever found. They are naturally formed hence their level of rarity. They are found in the melo melo snails that are found around Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines. They do not have nacres, instead are covered by a combination of calcite and aragonite.


We have come to a fuller understanding of the different varieties and types of pearls found in the world. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.

Take a look at the pearls in our collection, exercise the knowledge you gained and see how it changes your shopping experience.

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