What Are Cultured Pearls? Are Cultured Pearls Real Pearls?

What Are Cultured Pearls? Are Cultured Pearls Real Pearls?


Cultured Pearls vs. Freshwater Pearls: What's the Difference?

Throughout history, pearls have been treasured in practically every civilization imaginable. One of the reasons why pearls are adored and coveted is for their beauty. 

As pearls earned their reputation as a treasure, they were also used as currency. The most valued pearls were the roundest, largest, cleanest and most lustrous pearls. 

In the consumer's search for the perfect pearl, labels can be confusing, especially with regard to freshwater pearls and cultured pearls. 

But what's the difference? And which are the roundest, largest, cleanest and most lustrous?

What are Cultured Pearls?

The fact of the matter is this: almost all pearls sold today are cultured pearls, including freshwater pearls. 

In other words, there is no real difference when comparing cultured freshwater pearls vs. freshwater pearls. 

The real differentiator is the environment in which they are made, either freshwater or saltwater. 

Here's how they differ:

Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls, including Japanese Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls, are created in saltwater environments. 

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are the product of mussels that inhabit freshwater lakes and rivers. 

Freshwater pearls can be round or irregular in their shapes and exhibit unusual colors. 

White Freshwater and Akoya Pearls are routinely bleached in order to produce a white pearl. 

Freshwater pearl of the grey, gold, black, pistachio, mocha, dark cream, blue and peacock are color enhanced with a dye.

Which Type of Pearl is the Most Valuable?

Supply and demand also contribute to the value of pearls. 

There is a large supply of freshwater pearls available each year, unlike saltwater pearls, whose perfectly round shapes and mirror-like luster make them a true treasure.

The difference in the availability of freshwater pearls vs. saltwater pearls is why the former are so affordable. 

Whereas saltwater pearls are investment- grade quality, most freshwater pearls are closer to commercial-quality jewelry in their prices. 

Regardless of their price or rarity, freshwater pearls are nonetheless beautiful. 

And when it comes to choosing between a freshwater pearl vs. saltwater pearl, the economical price can be a deciding factor for many buyers.

Are cultured pearls considered real pearls?

Cultured pearls are real pearls – but they are formed with human intervention. Most pearls available on the market today are cultured. Natural pearls are much rarer and, therefore, much more valuable.

Are cultured pearls worth anything?

Cultured South Sea Pearls are the most valuable type of cultured pearl on the market today. 

These pearls come in a gorgeous variety of sizes, shapes and colors. 

A strand of South Sea pearls featuring large gems can be as expensive as $100,000 or more.

What is the difference between a cultured pearl and a natural pearl?

Both natural and cultured pearls are formed when an irritant enters the mollusk or oyster, causing it to respond to the irritant. 

The difference is that when cultivating pearls, the irritant is purposely placed inside the oyster through human intervention.

Pearl Jewelry Buyer's Cheat Sheet

Right, so i know that was a lot to take in, so to make it easy for you to choose pearl jewelry, we have put together the Pearl Jewelry Buyer's Cheat Sheet. It’s like having the cheat codes for the pearl jewelry business.

This will guide you on what to look for to ensure you get great deals on high-quality pearl jewelry.

For a free copy of the Pearl Jewelry Buyer's Cheat Sheet, click the link below. 










South Sea


Transparent luster and

unique play of colors,

or "orient" that imparts

a luminescent beauty

10mm up to 17mm

From white pink and silver pink to dark gold

Strands or statement pieces


French Polynesia

Opalescent black hue shimmers with peacock green, gray, and purple overtones

8mm to 14mm

From gray to black with pure black rare

Edgy look for strands or bigger pieces



Their roundness, nacre

depth, and consistent

luster make them the preferred choice for

classic pearls

4mm to 9mm

White and white with



Strands or statement pieces



Designed to be domed hemispheres with

almost flat back

9mm to 15mm

Most desirable are

white with pink undertones,

increasing interest in darker colors

has emerged

Brooches or pendants that will sit flat



Irregular in shape and

color, uniquely durable


4-4.5mm to 9.5mm to 10mm

Comes in a variety of colors

Normally paired with sterling silver in strands or jewelry

Cultured Seed


Seeds of cultured pearls

that never fully form

1mm to 3.5mm

Accents in place of melee diamonds

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