American Pearl | The World's Finest Pearls
 
 


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When shopping for pearl jewelry, its important to understand the variety of pearls available and what their typical uses are. Different types of pearls are used for different applications. Most investment-quality pearls have a round shape, come from select types of oysters and feature a thick nacre. American Pearl understands that not everyone is as passionate about pearls as we are, so weve made it our goal to educate our customers so they can make an informed purchase.

There are many different varieties of pearls on the market, but most consumers will only ever encounter a few types. The 9 types of pearls used in jewelry applications are:


  • Japanese Akoya
  • Chinese Akoya
  • White South Sea
  • Black South Sea
  • Golden South Sea

 

  • Freshwater Cultured Pearls
  • High Grade Freshwater Pearls
  • Natural Pearls
  • Synthetic Pearls

 

The type of pearl used will depend on the application. Some varieties, like Japanese Akoya, are more suited for high end jewelry, while other varieties, like synthetic pearls, are best suited for costume jewelry. The table below has more information about each variety of pearl.




THE VARIETY OF PEARLS IN THE MARKETPLACE

PEARL VARIETY

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE SPECIES of MOLLUSK CHARACTERISTICS

POSITION IN THE CONSUMER MARKETPLACE

Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearls

Japan
pinctada fucata oyster
  • Investment Grade
  • Round Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • 1mm to 10mm
  • Saltwater

Higher end jewelry stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Mikimoto

China
hybrid oyster
  • NOT Investment Grade
  • Round Shapes
  • Mostly Dull Reflections
  • Up to 8mm
  • Saltwater

Low end stores and designer boutiques such as Barney's

Australia Indonesia

Pinctada Maxima oyster
  • Investment Grade
  • Round Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • 7mm Up to 20mm
  • Saltwater

Higher end jewelry stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Mikimoto

French Polynesia
Black South Sea
Pinctada Margaritifera oyster
  • Investment Grade
  • Round Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • 7mm Up to 20mm
  • Saltwater

Higher end jewelry stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Mikimoto

Indonesia Australia
Golden South Sea
Pinctada Maxima oyster
  • Investment Grade
  • Round Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • 7mm Up to 20mm
  • Saltwater

Higher end jewelry stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Mikimoto

China
Freshwater
Hyriopsis Cumingi Mussel
  • NOT Investment
  • Irregular Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • Up to 20mm
  • Freshwater

Low end stores and designer boutiques such as Barney's

China

High Grade Freshwater
Hyriopsis Cumingi Mussel
  • NOT Investment
  • Round Shapes
  • Sharp Reflections
  • Up to 8mm
  • Freshwater

Low end stores and designer boutiques such as Barney's

Natural Pearls

Everywhere

any species of mollusk invertebrae
  • Investment Grade
  • Any Shape or Size
  • NOT cultured, these pearls are found by accident
  • Saltwater or Freshwater

Extremely rare, sold at auction houses and antique and estate dealers

Synthetic Pearls

Manufactured

none
  • NOT Investment Grade

Low end stores







Pearl Quality, Learning How to Identify

There are several factors used to identify the quality of a pearl. The finest pearls are labeled AAA quality. The categories used to determine the grade of a pearl are:


  • Size. Larger pearls command higher prices than smaller pearls because they take longer to form and are rarer.

 

  • Shape. Round pearls are more desirable than irregularly shaped pearls for jewelry making.

 

  • Color. Pearls come in a range of colors depending on the variety. The color in relation to the variety of pearl can be graded.

 

  • Luster. The luster is the pearl's ability to reflect light.

 

  • Surface quality. Smooth, non-marred surfaces are more desirable and are more valuable.

 

  • Nacre quality. The iridescent coating on the outside of the pearl is called the nacre. Thicker, more opaque nacres are more valuable.


The variety and quality of a pearl should be considered when determining the value and making a purchase. Certain types of pearls that score highly for quality are not only beautiful, but they can be quite valuable for years to come.