Everything you need to know about Pearl Gemstone

Natural and cultivated pearls, two of the most cherished gemstone types, may be found in a rainbow of hues. Although white and cream are the most common, the range of hues available includes every imaginable shade.

Pearl gemstone neckless


Natural pearls are created when a specific mollusk's immune system reacts to a tiny irritation. Cultured pearls are created by inserting a bead or tissue piece coated with nacre by the mollusc.


Both natural and contemporary, pearls come in a rainbow of hues, making them one of the most popular jewels.

White and cream are the most typical hues (a light yellowish brown). Although the most frequent pearl hues are white, yellow, and orange, the colour spectrum of pearls includes every shade of the rainbow.

Pearl gemstone


Overtones alter the primary colour, also known as the body colour, and are most often pink (sometimes spelled rosé), green, purple, and blue. In addition, the iridescent effect known as orientation may be seen in certain pearls.

Bead necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and pendants set with single or paired cultured pearls are all popular accessories. Creative jewellers want larger pearls of interesting forms.

Natural and cultured pearls, alexandrite, and moonstone are June birthstones in the United States.

Compare and Contrast: Cultured Pearls with Natural Pearls

Gem-quality, 100% natural pearls

Pearls formed in nature develop in the mantle tissue of some mollusks, often around a minute irritant and always without any outside intervention.

Human-Cultivated Pearls

Cultured pearls can only be grown with the help of a human caregiver. While some wild mollusks are still harvested and utilized, most mollusks used in the culturing process are produced particularly for that reason.

The procedure begins with the skilled technician removing mantle tissue from a sacrificed mollusk of the same species and inserting either a small piece of mantle tissue with a shell bead into the gonad of a host mollusk, or several pieces of mantle tissue without beads into the mantle of the host mollusk.

Cultured pearls are created when the mantle tissue of an oyster develops around a bead, creating a sac that the oyster then uses to deposit nacre into and onto the bead. Without a bead, the nacre grows around the individual pieces of transplanted mantle tissue. After the mollusks are cultivated, the workers will harvest the pearls.

Kinds of Pearls

Four main categories of real cultivated pearls exist, and they are:

Cultured Akoya Pearls

Most people in the United States and other western markets are acquainted with Akoya cultured pearls, a kind of saltwater cultivated pearl.

Many consumers consider single-strand necklaces with white or cream-coloured Akoya pearls iconic jewellery pieces. Cultured pearls known as Akoya are made in both Japan and China.

Cultured Pearls from the South Sea

These saltwater-farmed pearls come mostly from Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Depending on the oyster they come from, South Sea cultivated pearls may range in colour from white to silver or even golden.

Several reasons contribute to their high value, including their great size and thick nacre, both of which result from their lengthy development time and the fact that there are only a few optimal growing circumstances.

Pearls from Tahiti, cultured

They are growing mostly on French Polynesian islands (the most familiar of these is Tahiti). These black pearls are saltwater cultivated pearls, which come in various colours. Overtones of blue, green, purple, or pink may be seen in all of these colours, as well as others, making them seem grey, black, or brown.

Pearls that have been Cultured in Freshwater

Cultivated freshwater pearls are unrivalled in terms of production volume and popularity among consumers and jewellers. This is because they are commercially available at more affordable prices and come in an astounding variety of sizes, shapes, and colours.

In addition, many pearls may be developed in a single oyster when the process is done in a freshwater environment like a lake or pond. Freshwater-cultivated pearls have traditionally come from China.


Birefringence Birthstone Cleavage
None. Aragonite in nacre ranges from 0.155–0.156. June None
Colours Crystallography Formula
Pearl colour results from body colour, and an overtone colour or orientation is present as a lustrous sheen.
The orient is the colour seen as reflected by a diffuse light source. The rest of the colour is due to the body colour.
There are sometimes two overtone colours, one seen on the surface in full view, the other at the edge. See "Identifying Characteristics" below for more information
Amorphous. The aragonite in the nacre of a pearl is orthorhombic, with minute crystals radially oriented and a concentric structure. CaCO3 (aragonite, the outer layer) about 82-86%, conchiolin 10-14%, water 2%. These proportions are variable.
Dispersion Fracture Fracture Luster
None Uneven. Roughness is variable. Dull to pearly
Enhancements Etymology Hardness
Bleaching, dyeing, surface coating, radiation From the Old French Perle, Medieval Latin Perla, and Classical Latin pernula or Perna for pearl 2.5-4.5
Heat Sensitivity Luminescence Luminescence Present
Yes See "Do Pearls Luminesce?" Yes
Luminescence Type Lustre Occurrence
Fluorescent, UV-Long, UV-Short, X-ray Colors Pearly, dull. Formed within various species of living bivalve mollusks in both salt and freshwater
Phenomena Pleochroism Polish Luster
Orient None Dull to nearly metallic
Specific Gravity Typical Treatments Refractive Index
2.6–2.78; conch pearls, 2.85; cultured pearls, 2.72-2.78, heavier than most naturals. However, this is NOT a diagnostic test. Bleaching, Dyeing, Irradiation, Surface Coating, Varieties, Conch Pearl, Freshwater Pearl, Saltwater Pearl 1.53-1.69
Transparency Variety of Wearability
Translucent to opaque Organic Gemstones Poor


Humans have sought natural pearls for thousands of years, representing wealth and social rank. However, the first documented record of natural pearls dates back to 2206 BC to a Chinese historian.

Natural pearls continued to be highly sought after as the ages turned into the modern day. Natural pearls were handed down to royal families and affluent households throughout Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Natural pearls were abundant in the Persian Gulf, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) waterways, Chinese rivers and lakes, and European rivers from ancient times until the discovery of the New World in 1492.

Pearl gemstone


Christopher Columbus met natives wearing genuine pearls on his third (1498) and fourth (1502) trips to the New World. The demand in Europe skyrocketed when he discovered natural pearl supplies in the seas off of what is now Venezuela and Panama.

Overfishing, pearl culture, plastic buttons, and oil drilling all contributed to a dramatic depletion of natural pearl supplies within a century.

Pearl culturing was originally attempted in China hundreds of years ago, and at the turn of the twentieth century, Japanese pioneers successfully produced real cultured pearls.

In the 1920s, they played a significant role in the marketplace (about the same time natural pearl production began to decline). As a result, there was a proliferation of pearl farms beginning in the 1930s and continuing until the 1980s.

Pearls traditionally represent the allure, strength, and vitality of the water that forms the Earth's ponds, lakes, seas, and oceans.

Many civilizations have linked pearls to the moon due to their spherical form. Pearls were thought to provide invincibility against flames and dragons that breathed fire in ancient China. They represented purity, virtue, and sublimity in European culture.

Stone Size

Pearls are evaluated using millimetres, grains, and mommes as their standard units of measurement. One grain of jewellery is around a quarter of a carat.

Therefore, Pearl counts are expressed in terms of a momme. Each momme is equal to 18.75 carats or 75 jeweller's grains. (Keep in mind that the value of grain varies depending on the system you're using.)

Pearl gemstone


Diameters are determined by the pearl's smallest point, whether it be round or off-round. For pearls of different forms, the longest and second longest dimensions are used for measurement.

Larger gems are rarer than smaller ones, so they sell for more money per carat. There is a 2–9 mm size range for round pearls. The largest baroque pearls have been measured at 50 millimetres.

The freshwater pearls, saltwater pearls sections, and the seven famous pearls page are where you may find the largest and most well-known pearls by name.

Stone Care

Pearls are very fragile, yet skilled jewellers have been using them to create beautiful pieces of jewellery for thousands of years. However, some care is required if you want to enjoy your pearl jewellery for even a small portion of that period. Therefore, pearls, like opals, need a comprehensive care manual.

Pearl gemstone ring


A few fundamental rules are as follows:

  • Apart from other jewellery, pearls should be kept in a soft pouch or box. This is because pearls are so soft that they are easily scratched by most stones found in jewellery collections.
  • Pearl jewellery should be worn after applying other cosmetics (including perfume and hairspray). In certain cases, the items in question may include acids and alcohol that are destructive to pearls.
  • Pearls may be cleaned easily with a moist cloth after being worn.
  • Pearls should never be cleaned with dish soap. Instead, apply a moist cloth dipped in a mild soap and water solution and wipe it off (not detergent).
  • Pearls should never be cleaned using ultrasonic or steam machines. Pearls may easily crack or melt if exposed to high temperatures.
  • Rings and bracelets with pearls need safekeeping settings to avoid damage. Instead of wearing them every day if they don't, save them for special occasions.


Why are pearls so precious?

Pearls are one of a kind, despite being categorized as a kind of gemstone. This is partly attributable to the fact that they are the only type of gem material generated and discovered inside a living organism.

Therefore, unlike diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other gemstones, pearls do not need to be cut or polished before usage since they are already beautiful in their naturally occurring state.

How can you tell if a pearl is real?

Just take the pearl in your hand and massage it over the top of your tooth in a circular motion. If the pearls are genuine, they will have a graininess comparable to sandpaper when you touch them.

To put it another way, there will be significant friction. However, if the pearls are phony, the texture will be smooth, like plastic or glass.

What are real pearls made of?

All natural pearls are made up completely of nacre, a compound made up of aragonite and an organic binder known as conchiolin.

If an outsider threatens it, the oyster will cover itself in layers of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl and is the component used in constructing the oyster's shell.

What is the most expensive pearl colour?

Jewellers will also price white pearls, but the gold pearl type is the most valuable and sought-after hue. As a result, there is a wide price range for gold South sea pearls, which may be anywhere from almost colourless to rich, dark gold.