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Different Types of Pearls

Mayuri Kulkarni Feb 12, 2020
A pearl is a round, hard object that is formed in the shell of a living mollusk, like an oyster. Read on to know more about the different types of pearls.
A popular old Arab myth says that pearls are formed when dew drops fall into the ocean in moonlight and the oysters swallow them. Though this is a splendid and majestic way of explaining the formation of a pearl, it is not the scientific elucidation. However, it does reveal the magnificence and glamor that pearls possess.
The formation of a pearl is actually a defending process by the mollusk, when a foreign particle enters its shell. The mollusks covers the foreign particle by a chemical substance, until it forms a smooth round pearl.
One may not know that there are millions of types of pearls, depending on factors like, the water in which they are cultivated and the method of cultivation. Here are a few of them.

Natural Pearls

These are formed naturally. When a foreign particle enters the shell of a mollusk, its presence irritates the inner surface of the shell of the mollusk. Thus, in order to get rid of this irritation, the mollusk produces a chemical substance, calcium carbonate and conchiolin, to cover this foreign particle with. The gradual secretion and cementing of the chemicals on the particle, results in the formation of a pearl. It can take any shape and perfect round shapes are seldom seen.

Cultured Pearls

These are formed by cultivating the oysters and placing the foreign particles in the shells of mollusks. The foreign particles that are used are beads. These beads are placed in the shell and the pearl that is formed takes the shape of the bead. Cultured pearls can be differentiated from other types by X-rays. An X-ray reveals the bead that was placed before the formation of the pearl. Thus, they are formed in a natural way, the only difference being the purposeful placement of the beads. These are the most common type used these days.

Freshwater Pearls

As the name suggests, these are cultivated by mollusks that live in freshwater bodies, like rivers, lakes, and ponds. 20 or more than 20 pearls are formed from one freshwater mollusk that take 6 months to 2 years to completely take the form of a pearl. The irritants that are used to form freshwater pearls are small in size. These pearls are very irregular in shape and are rarely round. Freshwater pearls are more durable and are highly resistant as compared to saltwater pearls.

Saltwater Pearls

These are cultivated in mollusks, which live in saltwater bodies, like oceans, bays, seas, and gulfs. Only one pearl per oyster is produced and it may take more than two years for it to form completely. The shape of the pearls formed from saltwater oysters are almost round and are rarely irregular. They are less durable as compared to freshwater pearls. They are also very expensive, as their cultivation is costlier than that of freshwater pearls.
These were the basic categories. Pearls can also be further classified depending upon the type of oyster and the water resource that cultivates these pearls. Here is a brief information on these different types of oysters and their respective pearl types.

Different Pearl Types and Name of the Mollusk/ Water Resource

  • Akoya Pearls, Cultured Pearl: Akoya Oyster
  • Biwa Pearls, Freshwater Pearl: Lake Biwa, Japan
  • Black Pearls, Saltwater Pearl: Black-lip oyster, Pacific Ocean
  • Blue Pearls, Cultured Pearl: Silver-lipped oysters, Abalone (type of snail)
  • Kasumiga Pearls, Freshwater Pearl: Lake Kaumiga, North Tokyo
  • Mabe Pearls, Cultured Pearl: Plastic dome is placed in the oyster shell
  • South Sea Pearl,¬†Cultured Pearl: Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand
  • Conch Pearls, Cultured Pearl: The Great Conch (a marine snail found in the Caribbean)
  • Melo Pearls, Natural Pearl: Sea Snails
No wonder pearl is a very precious and beautiful object that is formed after a long process and thus, we use pearls with reference to metaphors for something that is very rare, highly precious, extremely pleasing and exceedingly adorable.