Where Do Pearls Come From?

Where Do Pearls Come From?

Where Do Pearls Come From?

As a natural defence against an irritant like a parasite entering their shell or harm to their delicate body, freshwater and saltwater mussels produce pearls. The aragonite and conchiolin layers that make up the oyster or mussel’s shell are gradually secreted by them.

Pearls have been a timeless material for beautiful jewelry for countless years. Rarely does a woman in the entire world not appreciate wearing these exquisite little dazzling jewels, which are unique among all other jewelry pieces.

But from where do they originate? How do they get made? What matters most is how pearls are produced.

Continue reading for a detailed response to these and other related points. 

What are pearls made of?

Clams can produce pearls; however, it’s less common than oysters and mussels, which you may already be aware of. Mussels produce freshwater pearls, but saltwater pearls, which are more precious because they are rarer, are produced by oysters.


When an irritant, or foreign substance, makes its way into a mollusc, a natural pearl starts to form. The mantle, an organ that builds the shell from nacre, the composite material that lines the inner shell layer, becomes irritated by that foreign particle.


Then, the mantle begins to wrap the irritant in the nacre to protect itself. Finally, it covers many layers of nacre, which eventually harden to create a pearl. Because aragonite makes up most of the nacre, natural pearls have that distinctive iridescent shine.


For a single pearl to fully mature, it takes 2-4 years.

How are pearls collected?

Pearl harvesting is a delicate process because you do not want to harm the mollusk in any way. Professionals use special surgical instruments and extreme precision and care to safely extract pearls from mollusks.

The harvesting process begins by gently opening a mollusk just enough to allow the unique instrument to be inserted without causing harm. Then, after taking the pearl with that unique tool, a harvester carefully closes the mollusk.

The production of a new pearl can even be started during the harvesting process by inserting a fresh nucleus into the mollusk. A nucleus can be a bead or other object that the harvester inserts into the mollusk’s mantle to trigger it to reactivate its defense mechanism and begin encasing the nucleus in nacre, gradually creating another pearl.


Are natural pearls and cultured pearls different?

There is a difference between cultured and natural pearls, but it depends on how they were made. For example, natural pearls are created when an irritant accidentally enters a snail. Still, cultured pearls are created when a mollusk is nudged appropriately by a pearl harvester, as was covered in the preceding section.


There are many pearl farms worldwide, which explains why so many cultivated pearls are available. In addition, natural pearls are far more valuable than their produced cousins since they are much rarer.

Are real black pearls genuine?

While pearls can be painted black, there is also a very uncommon natural black pearl. The Pinctada margaritifera, a Tahitian black-lip oyster, is where a black pearl, commonly referred to as a Tahitian pearl, is generated. These oysters, which are found in the South Pacific, feature black nacre, which gives these pearls their dark color.

Difference between five types of pearlsWhere Do Pearls Come From?

When most people think of pearls, they envision the classic, creamy, white, perfect spheres seen on the necks of high-society ladies in movies. Consider Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s! These, however, are only a few of the many pearl classifications. Many pearls vary greatly in color, size, shape, and origin. Moreover, not all of them are perfectly round and creamy!


Natural pearls have become increasingly scarce over the years as we have harvested them at an unprecedented rate. In reality, the vast majority of pearls sold today are “cultured pearls,” which means they were formed solely through human intervention. They are still genuine pearls, but they do not form naturally.


Where Do Cultured Pearls Come From?

Technicians must add a small part of the shell and mantle tissue from similar mollusks into an oyster to grow a cultured pearl. They are then returned to the ocean in individual mesh pockets, where they secrete layer after layer of glossy nacre, eventually forming the pearl.


The oysters are brought onto land regularly for cleaning and a health check. Pearl technicians take every precaution possible to protect the oysters from disease and damage.


Now that you know where most pearls come from let’s look at the different types and how to tell them apart.

Varieties of pearls

1- Akoya pearl

When most people think of pearls, they probably think of the Akoya pearl, which has a distinctive, luxurious white sheen that is unique to this variety. The Pinctada fucata martensii saltwater oyster, found in the colder coastal water of Japan, Vietnam, and Southern China, is used to cultivate Akoya pearls.


Japan has been the world leader in Akoya pearl cultivation, producing the most consistently high-quality specimens. While most Akoya pearls are white, some may have golden or silvery-blue undertones.


Akoya pearls are typically 2 mm to 9mm in size, with the largest and most valuable reaching up to 10mm (although this is extremely rare).


2- Fresh water pearl

As the name implies, this pearl is always grown inside freshwater mussels rather than ocean mollusks. As a result, they are the least expensive type of pearl, though finer specimens can still command a high price.

Freshwater pearls are primarily from China and come in various colors. They are mostly available in pastel colors like peach, lavender, pink, and white. In addition, they are frequently colored with special dyes to enhance or change their appearance. Because of their shimmering violet iridescence, freshwater pearls dyed black are known as “Peacock pearls.

Freshwater pearls can be 2mm to 12mm in diameter, with some newer varieties reaching up to 15mm.

3- Tahitian pearl

In the temperate coastal waters of French Polynesia, black-lipped oysters are used to extract Tahitian pearls. Being the only naturally occurring “black pearls,” they are renowned for their glossy, metallic, gray coloring. Because they are rarer than lighter pearls, darker pearls sell for more money.


They range in size from 8mm to 15mm and are valued for their size and distinctive coloring. Over 15mm Tahitian pearls are extremely rare and sell for exorbitant prices. Tahitian pearls smaller than 0.8mm cannot be exported.


The only pearls on the market that are never given a color treatment after harvesting are those from Tahiti and the South Sea. They are incredibly well-liked because of their exquisite coloring and luster.


4- South sea pearl

The largest and most expensive variety of pearls is usually found in these highly prized jewels. Growing in the notorious “coral triangle,” a dangerous stretch of water between Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, contributes to some of its mystique. Sharks and pirates are infamous in this area (yes, actual pirates).


Sizes of South Sea pearls always range from 8 to 20 mm, with those larger than 15 mm fetching prices of up to tens of thousands of dollars. They can be a silky white (like an Akoya), a sleek silver, a pastel pink, or a rich gold, depending on the type of oyster they form in.


The most sought-after and expensive pearls on the market are certainly large, perfectly round South Sea pearls, which is why individuals are willing to take extreme measures to farm them.

5- Baroque pearl

Several criteria are used to evaluate pearls, but the form is the main one in this case. All pearls fall into two basic shape categories: conventional or baroque. Baroque pearls can be almost anything, whereas traditional pearls are circular.

Although traditional pearls are typically more valuable, some prefer baroque pearls for their distinctive shapes. A traditional pearl’s price is based on size; the larger, the better. As a result of their color and gloss, baroque pearls command greater prices. Customers will spend any money to purchase the darker baroque pearls because the white and pink ones are much more affordable.


Pearls are amazing and fascinating, making fantastic presents, whether you’re buying them for someone else or yourself. They are particularly appropriate as gifts for the pearl or 30th anniversary. Knowing more about the wide varieties of pearls will enable you to select the most appealing ones.


Are oysters killed for pearls?

Yes. A pearl farm’s ultimate objective is to breed mollusks, produce pearls, and finally kill oysters. After eating the mussel meat, the shell is used to make mother-of-pearl inlays and other beautiful items.

How rare is it to find a pearl in an oyster?

Natural pearls are now very difficult to find. Only one in ten thousand wild oysters will produce a pearl, and of those, only a small proportion will have the appropriate size, shape, and colour for the jewellery industry.

How long does it take for an oyster to make a pearl?

Some pearls grow over a six-month period. It can take up to four years for larger pearls to emerge. This is only one of several explanations for why larger pearls might fetch higher prices. To wait for a pearl to form inside of an oyster shell, pearl producers must possess extreme patience.

Do oysters feel pain when making pearls?

Oysters are painless. They lack a brain and a fundamental nerve system. With that in mind, it is thought that they cannot and do not process pain in the same way as other animals.

Is it cruel to take pearls?

Pearls aren’t quite cruelty-free, according to vegans. According to PETA, the stressful process of growing pearls entails surgically opening each oyster shell and putting an irritant into the oyster.