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Types of Pearls: A Complete Guide

With so many types of pearls, you certainly aren't stuck for choice. Each pearl has its own unique characteristics, coming in different shades, sizes, and from various locations around the world. For those wanting to learn more about these stunning gems and their individual properties, we guide you through the different pearl types and explore this glistening gemstone.

How Many Different Types of Pearl Exist?

Pearls are often categorized under one massive umbrella. In fact, there are so many different types of pearl and each of their titles represents individual characteristics of the gem in question. This includes how the pearl is formed, where it is formed, and what shape it takes. Understanding what the different forms are will ensure your next piece of pearl jewellery is one you adore from the very first glimpse.

What are the 4 Main Types of Pearl?

Whilst there are many types of pearl, there are four types commonly recognised as the main groups.

  • Freshwater Pearls coming from lakes and ponds
  • Akoya Pearls which are deemed the traditional type, being of very round and usually white
  • Tahitian Black Pearls, these come in a range of darker colours including blue, greys, browns, and greens
  • South Sea Pearls, these are very rare and take between two to four years to form. They can be found in both white and gold shades
discover the many types of pearl
how many types of pearl are there

What Makes a Natural Pearl?

Natural pearls are formed without any human intervention. These are created when an irritant, such as sand, enters an oyster's muscle. This triggers the oyster's defenses, which causes it to secrete. As a result, a pearl is naturally formed from the layers of these secretions. The rarity of this type of pearl makes it extra special, and we're proud that we use natural pearls in our silver, rose gold, and gold jewellery.

How are Cultured Pearls Formed?

Whilst cultured pearls are created in the same way as natural, by an irritant causing layers of secretions, they are instigated in different ways. This is because the irritant does not occur naturally, and in this scenario it is instigated by human intervention. For this reason, natural pearls are rarer than cultured pearls and therefore more valuable. However, by instigating the irritant, this type of pearl is far more likely to produce the gem.

how to tell the difference between pearl types
what’s the most valuable pearl type

Freshwater vs Saltwater Pearl Types

It really is all in the name when it comes to these types of pearls. Freshwater pearls are those that come from mussels which live in freshwater, such as rivers or lakes. A lot of the world's freshwater pearls currently come from China. Saltwater pearls on the other hand, are formed in oysters that live in the sea. Commonly this type comes from Australia and Indonesia. Both these types of pearls can be either cultured or natural pearls.

One of a Kind Baroque Pearls

One of the aspects that denotes what type a pearl is, is its shape. Whilst we often imagine perfect spherical balls of lustre when we think of pearls, this is not always the case. Pearls that fit this idea are referred to as traditional pearls, whereas any irregular shapes are known as baroque pearls. Each of these are one-of-a-kind, with its own unique shape, size, and lustre. Ranging from flat, to bumpy, to asymmetrical shapes. Meaning however you choose to wear them, whether as earrings or a pendant, they'll be as individual as you are.

each pearl type has its own unique qualities
cultured vs natural pearl types

Beautiful Biwa Pearls

Originally cultivated in Lake Biwa in Japan, biwa pearls tend to be unusually shaped. This type of pearl is formed in freshwater muscles, and it is believed that Kokichi Mikimoto was the first to perfect cultured pearls in Lake Biwa in the 1920s. Pearls from this japanese lake were often affordable, meaning more people had access to these beautiful pieces. Whilst nowadays, not all Biwa pearls come from this lake, they do all still reflect the traditional unusual shape.

Sustainably Farmed Pearls

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we create at Monica Vinader. From our recycled silver, to our ethical diamonds, we don't believe beautiful jewellery should cost the earth. All of our pearls are sustainably farmed. To be classified as sustainable, pearl farms have to stick to a set of rules to protect the environment in which they work.

Modern Pearls for an Elegant Touch

For generations pearls have been a staple item in a woman's jewellery box. Whilst fashion has changed from the traditional string of pearls popular in the 1950s, the beauty of the gem has not subsided. There's so many types of pearls to choose from. With their incomparable lustre, pearls can transform your everyday wear into a glamorous outfit, sure to create envy. From a simple necklace with a single pearl, to a charm bracelet boasting a wealth of pendants, you really can't go wrong with this classic gem.

About Monica Vinader

We are a British jewellery brand, creating beautiful pieces by combining stunning metals and gorgeous gemstones. From delicate rings you won't want to leave your fingers, to simple chains that you can personalise with your favourite pendants. Since our founding in 2008, our pieces have been loved by many including The Duchess of Cambridge, and Kate Winslet. Our everyday, wearable pieces will compliment all your favourite outfits, taking you from morning till night.

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