Types of Pearls


As you begin your search to find a one-of-a-kind piece of pearl jewelry, you’ll soon realize one important detail about pearls that often gets overlooked. Although many people believe that there is only one type of pearl, there are actually a few different varieties to choose from. These include Freshwater, Akoya, Handama, South Sea, and Tahitian Pearls. Each type is beautiful in its own unique way and comes from a different location in the world. They are also all valued differently, which is a significant factor when looking to purchase. Although a bit more knowledge is required to know about all of the different types, it’s a small price to pay for being able to have so many different (and phenomenal) choices. In this article, we outline all of the different types of pearls that are available and provide you with key information about each one. We hope this ultimately helps you decide on the best choice for you.


Freshwater Pearls

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Freshwater pearls come from lakes, rivers, and ponds in China, where pearl farmers take great care of mussels so they can grow these amazing pearls. Because freshwater pearls are the most readily available out of all the types, they are the most affordable pearls on the market. Despite their low price-points, however, they still feature impressive quality. One reason for this is there have been many improvements in cultivation practices in recent years. This has resulted in pearls that feature a more enhanced luster and round shape. Freshwater pearls are available in an array of dazzling colors, from white to cream, pink, lavender, and peach. These pearls typically range in size from 5 to 10mm, though larges ones are available as well. If you’re looking for a special piece of pearl jewelry, but want to be budget-conscious, freshwater pearls are a fantastic choice.


Akoya Pearls

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If you’re thinking of a classic white strand of pearls, then likely that it’s Akoya pearls that you are thinking of. In fact, many brides opt for Akoya pearls for their wedding day. These pearls are recognized around the world for their spectacular luster and extreme shine, which makes them seem as though they’re radiating from the inside. They are also known for their perfectly round shape. Akoya pearls are commonly found in sizes ranging from 2 to 10 mm. Historically, these pearls have been cultured off the coast of Japan, but today they are also imported from China and Vietnam. The pearls come from a specific oyster known as the Pinctada Fucata, and in addition to white pearls, these oysters also produce black Akoya pearls. As the world’s most popular type of pearl, Akoya pearls are always an excellent choice. 


Handama Pearls

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Handama pearls (which are also known as “Flower Pearls”) represent the most exceptional Akoya pearls available in the world. One aspect that sets these pearls apart from other Akoya pearls is their vibrant and reflective luster. This luster comes from the extremely thick layer of nacre which these pearls possess. In addition, they feature an orient which gives them a glimmering bubble effect, unlike anything that is seen on another pearl. For a pearl to be sold as an authentic Handama pearl, it must be designated by the Japan Pearl Science Laboratory (the only authority allowed to grade Handama pearls) and come with a certificate of authenticity. While Handama pearls are definitely more on the pricey side, many pearl experts would argue that you can’t put a price tag on these flawless pearls.


South Sea Pearls

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There are three things that South Sea pearls are known for: their remarkable size, bold colors, and thick nacre. Of all the pearl types, South Sea pearls are generally the largest. To put this into context, they can grow to be as large as an astounding 20mm in size. These pearls feature two distinct colors which include a creamy white color with silver overtones and different shades of a golden hue. These colors are brought to life through the thick nacre of South Sea pearls which makes them glow and gives them a satiny appearance. South Sea pearls are considered quite rare because they’re found only in two different places in the world: the waters off Australia and the Philippines. There’s no question that South Sea pearls are one of the most special types of pearls available on the market. Their jaw-dropping colors and size make them an eye-catching option that put them in a league their its own.


Tahitian Pearls

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Although they’re called Tahitian pearls, these pearls aren’t only exclusive to Tahiti. Instead, they are collected off the shores of many French Polynesian islands. Tahitian pearls are highly regarded for their exotic colors, which range from peacock green to silver-blue, slate grey, and black. Despite the many different colors, Tahitian pearls are also commonly referred to as “black pearls” after the color they’re most famous for. The pearls get their spectacular color from the oyster, a specific type known as the Pinctada Margaritifer. Most commonly, they are found in sizes ranging from 9 to 13mm, making them ideal for pearl jewelry. Though they’re not as large as South Sea pearls, given their alluring colors, they stand out just as much.  In addition, only 10% of Tahitian pearls being perfectly round, so near round and baroque are shapes that are more common. The elegance of Tahitian pearls is truly unbelievable and a primary reason why they’re some of the most collectible gemstones in the world.


In this article, we’ve outlined the different varieties of pearl that you can choose from. While each one is slightly different than the next in terms of color, size, luster, and value, they all possess the beauty and sophistication that pearls are loved throughout the world for. After all of this discussion, there is only one question that remains: which one will you decide on?