Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls

Freshwater vs Saltwater Pearls

A pearl is a naturally made item used for jewelry. It is formed inside the soft tissue of a mollusk by deposition of concentric layers of calcium carbonate. For centuries, pearls have been objects of beauty used by women to decorate themselves. Naturally occurring pearls have also been used to stitch expensive party wearing and royal clothing. Pearls have traditionally been used to make medicines, paints, and cosmetics too. Though natural pearls are considered priceless, they are also rare. This is why pearls are also cultured and the technology has become very advanced to produce them both in freshwater, as well as saltwater. All pearls are not equal in all respects, and there are differences between freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls that will be highlighted in this article.

Freshwater Pearls

As the name implies, freshwater pearls are formed inside mollusks found in freshwater bodies of the world. These cultured pearls are today mostly produced in manmade lakes and reservoirs. They are also grown in many rivers and ponds. It may surprise some people, but a single freshwater mollusk can produce up to 50 pearls at a time. While freshwater pearls were once considered inferior in quality to saltwater pearls, China has surprised the world with high quality freshwater pearls.

Pearls are all about their nacre and iridescence. A shell nucleus is planted inside an oyster that produces calcium or nacre that gets deposited over this nucleus. Freshwater pearls do not have a nucleus and they are all nacre thereby being called all pearl. A 6mm freshwater pearl has, therefore, 6mm nacre. Another great attraction of freshwater pearls is the fact that they are available in various colors. This is achieved by adding metals to the water that is used for pearl farming.

One important feature of freshwater pearls is that one can find them in almost all shapes though round shape is still the most expensive.

Saltwater Pearls

The pearl produced in saline environment by a mollusk is called a saltwater pearl. Since ancient times, the saltwater in Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and the coastline of India and Japan have been areas where saltwater pearls have been grown. There are also naturally found saltwater pearls though most of the world production of saltwater pearls is cultured. The most common varieties of saltwater pearls are Akoya, Tahitian, and the ones found in South Sea. Saltwater perliculture requires opening up a mollusk and inserting a small nucleus inside the reproductive organ of the creature. Behind this nucleus is placed a small mantle where there is growth of pearl later.

What is the difference between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls?

• Saltwater pearls are mostly round in shape, whereas freshwater pearl come in many shapes and sizes.

• Saltwater pearls are expensive while freshwater pearls are inexpensive.

• Nacre in freshwater pearls is much thicker than that found in saltwater pearls.

• Freshwater pearls have more vibrant colors than saltwater pearls as colors can be obtained by adding metals in water.

• Freshwater pearls are not as hard as saltwater pearls, and they often have blemishes.

• Saltwater pearls have a greater shine than freshwater pearls.

• Freshwater pearls that are more than 8mm in size are easily found, but pearls bigger than this in saltwater are rare.