Tahitian Pearl Dangling Earrings set in 18K Yellow Gold

Saltwater Pearls: Exploring Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea Pearls

Posted by Chee Sheun Wong on

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Pearls are timeless gems that possess natural allure and profound symbolic importance. In this blog post, we’ll explore the captivating world of the sought-after saltwater pearls and uncover the differences between saltwater and freshwater varieties. By understanding the distinctive traits of each type, one can appreciate the exceptional beauty of saltwater pearls, including the exquisite Akoya, mesmerising Tahitian, and opulent South Sea pearls.


Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearls

Formed in distinct aquatic environments, saltwater and freshwater pearls boast varying production volumes, significantly influencing their respective price ranges. 


Saltwater pearls come from molluscs living in the ocean and natural bays, lagoons, or channels between islands in regions such as Japan, Australia, French Polynesia, Indonesia and the Philippines. These areas, away from pollution, provide protected and nutrient-rich waters for stable pearl growth. On the other hand, freshwater pearls develop within mussels that live in rivers or lakes. Cultivating freshwater pearls in China usually involves nurturing these mussels in man-made ponds.Saltwater pearls are cultured in the ocean

Production Volumes

Saltwater molluscs typically yield a single pearl at a time, except for Akoya molluscs, which have the potential to produce up to 5 pearls simultaneously. In contrast, a freshwater mussel can generate a maximum of 32 pearls per mussel. This notable discrepancy in production volumes highlights the difference in pearl output between saltwater and freshwater sources.

Market Pricing

The disparity in production volume significantly influences the pricing contrast between saltwater and freshwater pearls. Saltwater pearls, renowned for their scarcity, typically command higher prices in the market. In contrast, the higher production volumes of freshwater pearls make them more affordable for consumers. 


Most of the saltwater pearl farms are situated in remote and unpolluted sites for mollusc health. Although remote locations minimise pollution issues, they demand extensive logistical support and frequent staff rotations, resulting in escalated operational expenses that directly impact the pricing of saltwater pearls.


Akoya Pearls

The beautiful dangling earrings feature lustrous Akoya pearls swaying gracefully from the earlobes. Discover now.


Akoya pearls are the epitome of the classic white pearl, known for their timeless elegance and pristine beauty. Their impeccable roundness, exquisite lustre, and pure appearance make them the quintessential example of traditional pearl jewellery, holding an unrivalled position in fine jewellery.


Most of the Akoya pearls are produced by Akoya molluscs found in Japanese waters. Although the majority of Akoya pearls are cultivated in Japan, they are also grown in other Asian regions such as China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, and along the coastlines of Africa and the Caribbean. Akoya molluscs are the smallest among all the major pearl-bearing molluscs and typically range from 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 cm) in diameter.


Derived from the relatively small Akoya molluscs, Akoya pearls typically span from 2 to 11 mm in diameter, with prevalent sizes ranging between 6 mm and 8 mm. Frequently displaying round or near-round shapes, Akoya pearls embody timeless elegance, characterised by their pristine white or cream tones. These luminous gems sometimes reveal delicate pink or green overtones, adding to their allure and radiance.

Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian Pearl Pendant Necklace

Explore the elegance of this Tahitian pearl pendant necklace in captivating peacock hues. Discover now.


Tahitian pearls are alluring gems that capture the mystique of the ocean with their exotic and mesmerising hues.


Tahitian pearls, despite their name, are not produced in Tahiti itself. Rather, they come from the islands of French Polynesia, a beautiful archipelago located in the South Pacific. Although Tahiti is the commercial centre, the process of culturing pearls takes place on other islands within this group. The native Polynesian mollusc, also known as the black-lipped mollusc due to its shell's black-edged interior, is the primary cultivator of Tahitian cultured pearls and can grow to sizes of approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in diameter.


Tahitian pearls, also known as "black pearls" due to their dark shades, come in a wide range of colours beyond black. These colours include grey, black, and brown, with beautiful overtones like blue, green, purple, yellowish-green, or pink. These pearls are admired for their exotic beauty and are identified by three main and luxurious colours: 

  1. Peacock, a highly sought-after dark green-grey to blue-grey with hints of pink to purple; 
  2. Aubergine, a rich dark greyish-purple colour; and 
  3. Pistachio, which has a yellowish-green to greenish-yellow hue. 

These pearls are typically 9 to 14 mm in size, with the most common range being 9 to 11 mm, although they can occasionally reach larger sizes of 16 mm or even 18 mm.


South Sea Pearls

Golden South Sea Pearl Pendant Necklace

This captivating pendant necklace features a South Sea pearl with a rich golden hue. Discover now.


South Sea pearls are highly valued for their remarkable size and satiny lustre. They are the top choice for those looking to adorn themselves with stunning jewellery that makes a statement. With their impressive dimensions and captivating sheen, these pearls become the focal point of exquisite pieces that appeal to discerning women seeking elegance and prestige.


South Sea pearls are cultured from the Pinctada maxima molluscs, renowned for their capability to yield substantial pearls. These molluscs exist in two distinct varieties, silver-lipped and gold-lipped, distinguishable by the colour of their shell interiors. These molluscs are mainly found in the warm waters stretching across the South Seas from Southeast Asia's southern coast to the northern reaches of Australia and extending to the Philippines. As such, South Sea pearls are primarily cultivated in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.


Renowned for their remarkable size, South Sea pearls are often the largest among all the pearl varieties, typically measuring between 8 and 20 mm. These pearls exhibit a softer lustre compared to those with a metallic sheen. Pearls from silver-lipped molluscs typically display tones ranging from white to silver, occasionally showcasing subtle pink, blue, or green overtones. In contrast, pearls produced by gold-lipped molluscs often boast shades spanning from yellow to orangish-yellow hues, commonly referred to as "gold" or "golden" in the pearl trade.


Pearl Necklace


Saltwater Pearls Infographic

As we conclude this exploration of Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls, don't forget to download our exclusive infographic—a handy reference guide to uncover these remarkable treasures.


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