Cultured Pearls Image by GIA

How are Pearls Formed?

The birthstone for the month of June is a pearl. Pearls represent purity, generosity and loyalty. They are believed to bring good luck and attract wealth. Pearls have been used in some of the world’s oldest jewelry. A fragment of a pearl necklace was found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess that died in 520BC. This necklace is currently on display in the Louvre in Paris. Chances are that you even have some pearl jewelry in your collection currently. Have you ever wondered how your pearl was formed?

Akoya Pearl Oyster Image by GIA

The Basics

Pearls form when an irritant becomes stuck in the mollusks mantle. The mollusk creates a sac around it and secretes nacre which forms layer by layer growing the pearl over time. Depending on the type of mollusk, this process can take between 6 months all the way up to 7 years!

Natural vs Cultured

When shopping for pearl jewelry you will hear the term cultured pearl. Nearly all of jewelry made with pearls use cultured pearls. Natural pearls form when sand or a parasite invades the mollusk’s shell. Cultured pearls are formed when a specialist implants a piece of mantle tissue or mother of pearl into the shell to begin the process.

Types of Pearls

There are four main types of pearls used in jewelry. Each pearl grows in its own unique mollusk and has its own unique characteristics. Let’s explore the different pearls types.

Akoya Image by GIA


Akoya cultured pearls grown in saltwater. They are formed in the Pinctada Fucata oyster. Many Akoya cultured pearls have a perfectly round shape, white or cream color, high luster (reflection) and an average diameter of 6-8mm. Most Akoya pearls are farmed in Japan and China.

Freshwater Image by GIA


Freshwater pearls are grown in ponds, rivers and lakes. They are formed in the Hyriopsis Cumingii or Hybrid . The cool thing about these pearls is the many different shapes they form in. They also naturally occur in white, lavender, purple and even orange. Many cultured freshwater pearls are dyed bright, vibrant colors by different jewelry designers. Freshwater cultured pearls are a great option for a larger white strand with amazing luster, but not perfectly round.

South Sea Image by GIA

South Sea

South Sea cultured pearls are grown in saltwater in the Pinctada Maxima. There are two variations of this oyster, the silver lipped and the gold lipped. The gold lipped produces yellow and orange pearls, called golden. The silver lipped produces white and silver with pink, green or blue overtones. South Sea pearls are the largest pearls with an average diameter of 14mm. However, they can grow up to 20mm. The northern coast of Australia is the largest producer of South Sea pearls, but they are also farmed in the Philippines and along the coast of Southeastern Asia.

Tahitian Image by GIA


Grown in the warm salt waters of the islands of Polynesia, the Tahitian pearl offers the most dramatic natural colors. Tahitian pearls are grown in the Pinctada Margaritifer oyster. Pistachio Tahitians are a greenish yellow color, Peacock are green-gray and blue-gray sometimes having pink or purple overtones, and Aubergine which are a dark grayish purple color. They are also larger pearls with an average diameter of 9-11mm. Tahitians are some of the most sought after pearls offered.

Join us for our first ever Pearls & Prosecco event on Saturday June 15th, from 10-5. We have a huge selection of pearls coming in for one day only, so you can see all the different pearl varieties. We also have a very large collection of Freshwater pearls that are at a huge discount during our event. And don’t forget to answer our pearl trivia question here, to enter for a chance to win a freshwater pearl necklace with a sterling silver clasp. Hope to see you there!

Want to win a Freshwater Cultured Pearl Necklace?

Click here and correctly answer our trivia question to enter