Where do Natural Pearls Come From?

Pearls have been a popular addition to jewellery boxes since before written history, with their lustrous exterior proving perfect for adorning any outfit. The process of collecting pearls is both challenging and expensive, leading manufacturers to create imitation pearls using glass, plastic, alabaster or shells. The art of harvesting natural pearls has been optimised over the years, with different types of pearls requiring different techniques.

We know that if you love pearl jewellery you will love seeing the beautiful origins behind the pearls you wear so perfectly around your neck.

Freshwater pearls

Lake Biwa, Japan

Freshwater pearls come in an array of colours including tones of white, pink, lavender, mauve and apricot. As their name suggests, they are grown in freshwater sources such as lakes and rivers, with the primary sources being China, Japan and America. Freshwater pearls are the most common type of pearl, with their outstanding lustre, durability and resistance to chipping all strong reasons that freshwater pearl jewellery is a popular choice.

The lustrous sheen combined with the unique shape and sizes of natural freshwater pearls could easily be attributed to the natural beauty of the places in which they are farmed. There are hundreds of freshwater pearl farms around the world including farms in the waterways of Zhejiang in China and Lake Biwa in Japan.

Edison pearls

Pearl Farm, Zhejiang, China.

Edison Pearls are otherwise known as a nucleated pearl, created through the insertion of one bead into the mussel tissue of an oyster. These pearls have only been in the market for around 5 years, and are only produced by a few radical pearl farms in China. Cultured freshwater pearls originate from Hyriopsis cumingii, therefore the precious Edison Pearls are cultivated in bodies of freshwater.

The average size of an Edison Pearl ranges between 11.0-16.0mm which is an astounding size, achieved due to the choice to insert only one bead, allowing the mussel to direct all its attention to building one large pearl. The process is complex and takes approximately three years to complete, however, the end product is worthwhile. Edison Pearls naturally exist in a diverse range of colours, such as light/deep purple, light/deep peach, pink colour, metallic gold, metallic pink, white and some even can be very strong grey. This diverse range of colours allows for stunning freshwater Edison Pearl jewellery to be designed.

Mabe pearls

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, Australia

A common variety of pearls originating in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, mabe pearls have an interesting cultivation story. Silver-lipped oysters and black-lipped oysters are sourced from the waters of Australia and the South Pacific, and then implanted with a half piece nucleus. Mabe pearls are considerably quick to culture, taking around 9-12 months to culture, with each oyster producing an average of 5 of these stunning pearls, which are then promptly sold and turned into beautiful mabe pearl jewellery.

Akoya pearls

Akoya Pearl farm in Ago Bay, Japan

Japan has been big in the international pearl market since 1907. The Akoya oyster, from which Akoya pearls are sourced from, are famously found in Japan, producing only 2 or fewer pearls per harvest. Akoya pearls are loved for the naturally radiant pastel shades they produce, from white to ivory with overtones of pink, green and silver. Japanese Akoya pearls usually have a rich pink overtone and a naturally thicker nacre than Chinese Akoya pearls, hence a substantial cost difference (Japanese Akoya pearls can cost up to four times more than their Chinese counterparts).

Their rarity combined with popularity is reflected in the price points that can be seen in Akoya pearl jewellery. This jewellery is perfect for pearl lovers and fashionistas, looking to incorporate the pinky-white glow only Akoya pearl jewellery can offer.

Tahitian pearls

Tahitian Pearl Farm

Tahitian pearls have a mysterious depth to them, with their natural black exterior begging to be inspected. Also known as Black South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls are the second most valuable commercially farmed pearls in the world, with farms existing in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and the Micronesian Islands. Tahitian pearls are produced by the saltwater black-lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, which is a rare wild oyster species. Only one pearl is grown per oyster, commanding a high price point for Tahitian pearl jewellery.

One of the popular selling points for Tahitian Pearl jewellery is the pearls’ natural production of stunning overtones of peacock, green, blue and purple. The perfect addition to a classic pearl collection, with a naturally unique twist on the popular gem.

Australian South Sea pearls

Shining bright in a classic iridescent white, Australian South Sea pearls are any pearl lover’s best friend. Their overtones vary according to the colour of the mother of pearl lining inside the shell of the oyster, with varying hues including white, silver, aqua and blue overtones, with the rarest and most expensive South Sea pearls featuring a white coloured base with a pink hue.

If their beautiful appearance isn’t enough to make this pearl your favourite, then it has to be the fact that the world’s finest White South Sea pearls are cultivated in Australia, mainly produced in the tropical waters along the North West coast of Australia. Gold South Sea pearls are produced in Indonesia and the Philippines. South Sea jewellery delights with the stunning contrast of the glistening pearl against any of the complementing metals; yellow gold, white gold or rose gold. It just so happens that they’re Aussie too!

With so many pearls varying in colours and origin, there’s a style for everyone.

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