Differences Between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls

Published: 27th March 2007
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Pearls can be purchased in both freshwater and saltwater form, and the differences between the two make them both unique. Freshwater pearls are formed in freshwater mussels found in bodies of fresh water. By contrast, as one might expect, saltwater pearls are formed in saltwater mussels found in bodies of saltwater.



At one time, saltwater pearls were the only real option on the market, as the number of freshwater pearls being cultivated with desired aesthetic properties were few and far between. Today, freshwater pearls are produced with the same proportionality and size as saltwater pearls, and most often in China.



The processing techniques used in the cultivation of freshwater pearls have been perfected to the point that quality pearls can be realized in a period of between three to six years. Freshwater pearls are cultivated through the use of finite irritants, which are normally smaller than the irritants used in saltwater cultivation. This results in a pearl with a thicker nacre and increased luster. At this time, Chinese pearl cultivators are able to produce upwards of twenty pearls in a single oyster. Many saltwater cultivators produce pearls faster by using irritants that are exceptionally large. This results in increased production but a substantially lower number of nacre layers. Some saltwater pearl farms, however, use irritants slightly larger than those used to aid in the making of freshwater pearls for better quality and higher market value.



Saltwater pearls are naturally less diverse in color than their freshwater counterparts. Usually available in a select few hues, many pearl wholesalers now dye the pearls after they are cultivated for increased coloration. Freshwater pearls offer more luminescence than saltwater pearls. The recent discovery that adding various metals to the water in which freshwater pearls are cultivated can produce wider ranges of colors has brought a renewed interest from pearl buyers worldwide.



Properly cultivated pearls of the highest quality in both the freshwater and saltwater varieties will hold their value provided they are well cared for. With the prices of both coming ever closer for the same size and shape of pearl, today's consumers can simply choose which they find more aesthetically appealing.



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