June’s lustrous birthstone is celebrated around the globe for its compelling beauty. Earlier this week we discussed the source and history of the pearl. Today we’ll be diving into the various types of pearls.

Natural saltwater pearls are extremely rare and valuable. They are most often found in the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf), where 70-80 percent of all natural pearls were discovered until the 1930s. Natural pearls can also be found in, the Red Sea and Strait of Manaar. Occasionally, natural saltwater pearls are unearthed in Baja California, Venezuela, Myanmar, China, Japan, India, French Polynesia, Australia and Africa – the same regions that have cultured pearl industries.

The majority of pearls on the market are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are formed with human assistance under controlled conditions in pearl farms around the world. Technicians insert a bead or piece of tissue into a living mollusk, and the mollusk responds by depositing layers of nacre over the irritant, which over time gives rise to a miraculous pearl.. Cultured pearls fall into four types :

135955 Akoya Pearl_200

Akoya
• Environment: Saltwater
• Colors: White or cream with yellow, pink or blue hues and overtones of pink or green
• Size: Typical size range is 6 mm to 7 mm. You may see them as small as 2 mm and as large as 10 mm

133647 Taitian Pearl_200Tahitian
• Environment: Saltwater
• Colors: Black, gray, silver, brown. Overtone colors can include blue to green, purple, yellowish green and pink.
• Size: Typical size range if 8 mm to 14 mm

 

South Sea PearlsSouth Sea
• Environment: Saltwater
• Colors: White, cream or silver, with yellow, orangy yellow or blue hues and overtones of pink, green or blue
• Size: Usually 15 mm and larger but can be smaller

 

84659 Freshwater pearls handful_200Freshwater
• Environment: Freshwater, usually cultured in lakes and ponds
• Colors: white or cream with yellow, orange, pink or purple hues and overtones of pink, blue or green
• Size: Typical size range is 4 mm to 14 mm

 

Different environments and different mollusks produce different types of pearls, which makes cultured pearls a fascinating enterprise. Next up in our June birthstone series, we’ll provide some insight into how pearls are graded and their value is determined.

Do you have a favorite type of pearl or pearl color? Please share!