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11 Types of Pearls

Each type of pearl has its own unique beauty and characteristics. Boasting different shades, sizes, and being found in a wealth of places around the world, there's a pearl type to suit every taste. 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.

Table of Contents:

  • How many types of pearls are there?
  • 4 main types of pearl
  • What are natural pearls?
  • How cultured pearls are formed
  • Freshwater vs Saltwater pearls
  • Baroque pearls
  • Biwa pearls
  • Sustainability at Monica Vinader

How Many Different Types of Pearl Exist?

The different types of pearls are often categorised under one large umbrella. In fact, there are so many pearl types that each of their names represents individual characteristics of this semi-precious gem. 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?

Pearls tend to fall into four different groups. We break down each pearl type, their characteristics, and where they are found.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are found in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and glaciers - these bodies of water make up only 3% of the world's water. Any type of pearl that forms in mollusks in this time of water are called freshwater pearls. As the most common type of pearl used in jewellery, you're likely to have admired the beautiful shapes and colours in pendant necklaces and luxurious earrings featuring this kind.

Akoya Pearls

Ayoka pearls are the type commonly attributed to a traditional string of pearls. These classic pearl types make excellent stand out chains due to their round and white appearance. Most commonly this type is found in Japan and China.

Tahitian Black Pearls

Whilst pearls are often associated with a luminous white hue, one of the main types of pearl is actually dark in colour. Tahitian Black Pearls come in a range of deep blues, greys, browns, and greens. The variety of colours means they pair perfectly with complementary gemstone jewellery that highlight the rich tones of this pearl type.

South Sea Pearls

South Sea pearls are found in Australia's South Sea. Varying between two tones, this type of pearl is available in both gold and white shades. For those who adore gold jewellery, this is a beautiful pearl type that will pair gorgeously by echoing the warm hues.

discover the many types of pearl
how many types of pearl are there

What is 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 defences, 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.

How are Cultured Pearls Formed?

Cultured pearls are created in the same way as natural pearls. However in this type, the irritant is added to the oyster through human intervention. After the irritant is inserted, the mollusk will secrete in the same way and form layers to create this type of pearl. 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. Gems 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 king, with its own unique shape, size, and lustre. Ranging from flat, to bumpy, to asymmetrical shapes. Meaning however you choose to wear them, whether on a birthstone bracelet or as a versatile pendant, they'll be as unique 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. 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 birthstone jewellery pieces. Whilst nowadays, not all Biwa pearls come from this lake, they do all still reflect the same 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 that 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 elegant necklace with a single pearl, to a charm bracelet boasting a wealth of gemstone charms, you really can't go wrong with this classic stone

Monica Vinader's Sustainable Jewellery

We craft beautiful modern jewellery from sustainable and ethical materials. Our collection of diamond necklaces, dainty bracelets, and personalised rings will help give you a boost of confidence to take you from morning to night.

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