Types of Pearls
Real pearls come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from perfectly round lustrous Akoya pearls to dark exotic Tahitian pearls. Each type of pearl has its own unique beauty and appeal their individual value depends on a range of factors from pearl type to size, shape, surface quality, colour and lustre. The general rule is that the highest value pearls will be rarer, rounder, larger, have a clean surface, a good colour and an excellent lustre.
Freshwater pearls are mainly cultivated in lakes and rivers in the Far East. Produced by a type of mussel shell called Hyriopsis, approximately 24-32 pearls can be created from each shell. Freshwater pearls come in a huge variety of shapes colours and sizes and the pearls produced today are cleaner, rounder, and more lustrous than ever before. Freshwater pearl sizes typically range from 5mm to 10mm, though they can grow up to 15mm, their natural colours range from white to lavender, cream, pink and peach. The fact that large numbers of Freshwater pearls can be produced means that their price is more affordable.
Fireball pearls are the newest type of Freshwater pearls to come out of the Far East, created as a second harvest bead nucleated pearl. The name ‘fireball’ was given to this enigmatic type of pearl because of its unique shape which features a round pearl shape with a meteor-like tail. The individual character of these pearls allows for dramatic flashes of colour as the pearl catches the light.
Coin Pearls are mainly cultivated in lakes and rivers in the Far East they are produced by a type of mussel shell called Hyriopsis. Their unique shape is formed when the pearl farmer implants an irritant of either shell or bamboo in the required shape into the mussel shell. The shell is then turned whilst the pearl is growing to ensure an equal thickness of nacre on both sides of the pearl. Coin pearls typically grow to around 10-12mm and have a shimmering pearlescence with natural colours of white, pink, peach and lavender.
Keishi pearls come in a variety of colours and shades and are the closest thing to natural pearls from a farming environment. Consisting of solid nacre Keishi pearls are desired for their high lustre and petite shape, only growing to a few millimetres in size Keishi pearls can be either Freshwater or Saltwater Pearls.
Saltwater pearls are generally the best pearls available, often larger, cleaner and rarer than Freshwater pearls. This is reflected in their price and are usually more valuable and sought-after than other varieties of pearl.
The Akoya pearl hails from the seas around Japan and China, typically thought of as the perfect pearl because of its spherical shape and high lustre the Akoya pearl was the first pearl to be cultivated in Japan in the early 20th Century. Produced by a small oyster called the Pinctada Fucata these highly desirable white pearls are the smallest saltwater pearls and are found in sizes ranging from 2mm to 10mm in size. The small size of the Akoya oyster means that it can only produce 1-2 pearls at a time and this limited production increases their value.
Exotic Tahitian pearls are valued for their glorious array of colours and their mirror-like lustre. These dark and mysterious pearls consist of multitudes of overtones from peacock green and silver grey to lavenders and blues. Produced by the Pinctada Margaritifera oyster, which is found exclusively in Tahiti and several other French Polynesian islands Tahitian pearls generally reach a size of 8-14mm but can grow up to 18mm and exceptionally as large as 21mm. Often less than 10% of the Tahitian pearl harvest results in round saleable pearls and this significantly increases their value.
Large round South Sea Pearls are highly prized both for their size and for their satin-like lustre, produced by the white-lipped variety of the Pinctada Maxima oyster, this type of pearl is commonly cultivated in deep water off the shores of Australia. Found in shades of soft white through to honey gold, South Sea pearls can be found in the range of 8-20mm with the average size being 12mm. A high failure rate in the cultivation process means that these rare pearls continue to be among the most valuable pearls in the world.