The critical difference between freshwater and seawater pearls is that the former grows in mussels which live in briny water like rivers or lakes, while the latter forms in oysters salty water like seas and oceans.

There are two major types of pearls, cultivated and natural pearls. These two are very similar, and they come about when a mollusk produces layers of nacre inside its shell. This process triggered by a type of irritant inside the mollusk shell – in natural pearls, the irritant could be an organism that lives in water, while in cultivated pearls the irritant merely is a piece of tissue or a bead from central gem placed inside the mollusk to trigger the process.

Freshwater Pearls

At the start of freshwater pearl farming, mussels were implanted with pieces of mollusk tissue so that the mold encases with a nacre. What they finally got was a pearl. With the mollusk tissue, the freshwater pearls didn’t resemble regular round brine water cultivated pearl, instead of these pearls malformed and smaller in size. They looked like the breakfast cereal or Keshi pearls and so were called rice Krispie pearls.

Freshwater pearls grow in lakes, ponds, rivers. A mollusk produces up to 50 freshwater pearls at once. From the time a gem sets its roots into a mollusk, it develops for about six years to become fully grown. Over these years the risk of pollution or diseases is high, and that’s why every successful pearl that grows in fresh water is of much value and celebrated.

Seawater pearls

Freshwater and seawater pearls might be the same but what remains is that the best quality and value for a pearl will always start from saltwater. The three essential types of seawater or saltwater pearls are Tahitian pearls, South Sea pearls, and Akoya pearls.

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Seawater pearls are also called Akoya pearls and are mainly produced in China and Japan. The Akoya Mollusk cultivates them, thus the name Akoya pearls. They take between 6 to 18 months to grow, and that’s why they are highly priced. The saltwater pearls have been prized as the best pick for necklaces before. But then, the spectacular quality of the freshwater pearls has come out strong and challenged its status. Right now, these two pearls type are just about the same in quality and beauty.

Natural, Cultured, and Imitation Pearls

Natural pearls are the rarest and were only found in large numbers in the Persian Gulf, most have been harvested, and by now just a few are left. They are very expensive even in small portions.

Cultured pearls are made in pearl farms while imitated pearls are usually coated glass beads.

Although even an experienced jeweler can be challenged by the difference between natural and cultured/cultivated pearls, it is always very easy to identify an imitation pearl. An imitation pearl is usually has a high luster, but its depth is different from what is seen in real pearls.

Although even an experienced jeweler can be challenged by the difference between natural and cultured/cultivated pearls, it is always very easy to identify an imitation pearl. An imitation pearl is usually has a high luster, but its depth is different from what is seen in real pearls.