The Four Main Types of Pearls… and how much you should pay for each!
In the next section of this guide, you will learn more about each of them, especially judging value, but let’s start with an overview of the different pearl types:
1. South Sea Pearls South
Sea Pearls are the biggest and most valuable of all pearls, and come in two varieties: White and Golden. White South Sea Pearls are mostly grown in the waters off Australia and are the largest pearls on record. But the most valuable pearls in the world are the rare Golden South Sea Pearls, which come from the waters off Indonesia and the Philippines; most people have never even heard of Golden pearls, let alone held one up close.
2. Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater Pearls are generally the least expensive and the most common variety of pearl. This variety is cultivated in vast quantities in freshwater lakes, mostly in China and the United States. They often appear in pink or pastel colors, but are very commonly dyed to any color. You’ll see this variety sold in malls and your local Costco.
3. Akoya Cultured Pearls
Akoya Cultured Pearls were the first pearl variety to be cultivated commercially at the beginning of the 1900’s in Japan by Mikimoto and others. In general, the Akoya Pearl is considered a “step above” freshwater pearls in quality. This is the pearl type that often what comes to mind when someone mentions the word “pearl”: small, white, and shiny.
4. Tahitian Black Pearls
Tahitian Black Pearls might be called the “rock stars” of the pearl world, at least in terms of popularity! Actually, black is a misnomer since Tahitian pearls come in many hues of greens, blues, browns, and grays. While no one color is really“best” or most valuable, except in terms of personal preferences, green “peacock” shades are quite popular. Grown in Tahiti (French Polynesia) these pearls come much bigger than Akoyas and Freshwater pearls, and tend to cost more. (While Tahitian Pearls are sometimes referred to as “South Sea Pearls”, for the sake of clarity, we’ll treat them separately in this web guide.)