freshwater_pearls1How are cultured pearls created?

Cultured pearls are grown in live oysters. Much like natural pearls, cultured pearls start with a shell bead that is surgically implanted in a host oyster. To protect itself, the oyster secretes a crystalline substance called "nacre," over the irritant. Over time, the nacre layers build on one another, creating the deep luster favored in high quality cultured pearls.

Different types cultured pearls:

Akoya Cultured Pearls -Cultured primarily in Japan, they are the classic cultured pearls that come to mind when the word "pearl" is mentioned. They are the most lustrous of all pearls found anywhere in the world. Ranging in size from 3-10mm, they are available in white or gold body color with a variety of beautiful pink, yellow, and green hues. Shop akoya cultured pearls.

Freshwater Cultured Pearls -These can be produced in abundance in freshwater bays and rivers throughout the world. They are easily cultivated in freshwater mollusks in China, Japan, and the United States. Many are less lustrous than salt water cultured pearls, but their low price, unique shapes, and large variety of colors have made them popular jewelry items in recent years. Shop freshwater cultured pearls.

South Sea Cultured Pearls -Cultivated in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar, they are considered one of the most exclusive of all cultured pearl varieties. They range in size from 8mm - 18mm and in color from silver-white to golden. Due to their rarity, they command premium prices.

Tahitian Cultured Pearls -Cultivated in French Polynesia, South Pacific, Cook Islands, and Fiji, Tahitian pearls are one of the most unique of all varieties because of their exotic color palettes. They range in color from light gray to midnight black, some with intense overtones of pistachio, aubergine, and blue. They generally range in size from 8mm - 17mm.

Keshi Cultured Pearls -Cultivated in Japan, Australia, French Polynesia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Keshi cultured pearls are described as small seed-sized pearls found as by-products of the culturing process in saltwater pearls. They come from the Japanese word for "poppy seed."

Mabe or Assembled Cultured Pearls Blister Pearls -Mabes are cultured and manufactured pearls in a hemispherical shape with a mother-of-pearl backing. They form against the inside of the mollusk rather than within the soft tissue. They are available in many shapes and colors.

How to Create a Cultured Pearl Strand:

Creating a beautiful strand of cultured pearls is an extensive process that takes experts with highly trained eyes and years of experience. Because each pearl has its own unique combination of size, shape, luster and color, it takes refined skills to blend similar looking pearls together so they look like they match. Pearl dealers must cull through about 10,000 pearls to find enough that are so closely matched that they can be assembled together to make a single necklace. Therefore the rarity of the strand also depends on how well they are matched. Pearl strands are available in a variety of lengths and are chosen by personal preference and current trends.

Pearl Necklace Sizes:

jpl180238_1A collar is 12-13 inches in length and is usually made up of three or more strands. A choker is 14-16 inches. A pearl choker is perhaps the most classic and yet versatile of all the single strand lengths. It can be worn with virtually any outfit from casual to fancy evening wear. Princess is 17-19 inches. This length is best suited for crew and high necklines. It also compliments low, plunging necklines. A matinee is 20-24 inches. The matinee necklace is the right choice for casual or business dressing. The opera strand is 28-34 inches. It is elegant as a single strand or can be worn doubled as a choker. Finally, a rope is over 45 inches and is known for its elegance and sensuality.

To learn more about necklace sizes, read our blog on Necklaces.

Quality Considerations:

You can evaluate any piece of cultured pearl jewelry on the following quality factors.

  1. Lustre: Lustre is a combination of surface brilliance and a deep seated glow. The lustre of a good quality pearl should be bright and not dull. You should be able to see your own reflection clearly on the surface of the pearl. Any pearl that appears too white, dull or chalky indicates low quality. This is probably the most important factor that you will see when wearing your pearls.
  2. Surface: Cleanliness refers to the absence of spots, bumps, or cracks on the surface of a pearl. The cleaner the surface of the pearl, the more valuable.
  3. Shape: Since cultured pearls are grown by oysters in nature, it is very rare to find a perfectly round pearl. However, the rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is.
  4. Color: Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors from rose to black. While the color of a pearl is really a matter of the wearers preference, usually rose or silver/white pearls tend to look best on fair skins while cream and gold toned pearls are flattering to darker complexions.
  5. Size: Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. The larger the pearl, other factors being equal, the more valuable it will be. The average sized pearl sold today is between 7-7.5 millimeters.

Caring for Your Cultured Pearls:


no_perfumeOnce you have chosen the perfect pearls, make sure you learn how to care for them properly so they can become a treasured keepsake.

  1. Cosmetics, perfume, and hairspray all contain chemicals that may dull the luster of a pearl over time. Make sure they are the last thing on and the first thing off. Wipe them down once a week with a soft, damp cloth to remove any traces of harmful elements.
  2. Pearls are best stored away from hard or sharp jewelry that can scratch them. Pearls are best stored in a soft cloth pouch or separately lined compartment of a jewelry box.
  3. It is best to have your pearls re strung once a year or whenever the string loosens or discolors.

"Throughout history, the pearl has been one of the most highly prized and sought after gems." Naturally beautiful, it is the perfect gift for bridal jewelry, either for the bride or the bridal party. They can be given for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, mother's day, business promotions, or any special occasions. Rich and adaptable, a lustrous star in the world of fine jewelry, a simple cultured pearl necklace can take a woman through every moment of her life, any outfit in her wardrobe. The possibilities are endless.

About the Blogger:


michelle-washburnMichelle, Bangor Office Manager

Michelle has been a part of the Day's team since 2000, serving the public at the Day's Bangor, Maine location.

Before becoming Office Manager at Day's Jewelers, Michelle graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in Child Development. She was first employed by TJ Maxx, where her boss ended up being the store manager at the Bangor Day's Jewelers. The connection between Michelle's boss and Day's Jewelers is what triggered Michelle's interest in the jewelry business, specifically working for Day's.

Read more about Michelle.