Our focus is on South Sea and Tahitian Pearls, as that is the main product of our business, however, it is important to understand the differences between the various pearl types.
More detailed and technical descriptions are found in the CIBJO Pearl Book.
Freshwater Cultured Pearls and Saltwater South Sea and Tahitian and Akoya Pearls are produced from 'nacre secreting bivalve molluscs' or oysters, which have a two part shell. A mollusc is an 'invertebrate', which means it belongs to a class of animal without an internal backbone.
Freshwater Cultured Pearls, 'cultured' implying human involvement or intervention, are produced from a freshwater Mollusc, and several hundred tons are produced annually from the Freshwater lakes in China, as the main producer. A few years ago it was believed that
China produced 700 metric tons of pearls.
Akoya Cultured Pearls are produced from the akoya Oyster, farmed initially in Japan, and over the last few decades in China as now being the major producer globally. The main akoya species are Martensii, Imbricata, Vulgaris and radiata. They range in size from 8-13cm
diameter. It is interesting to note that the Imbricata species is also farmed commercially in Australia from Nowra to Port Stephens. This species of oyster is indigenous to Australia, found naturally along a great deal of the East Coast.
South Sea Cultured Pearls come from the Gold lipped oyster, and silver lipped oyster, which are both subspecies of the Pinctada Maxima, are farmed mainly in Australia, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Myanmar (Burma).
Tahitian Cultured Pearls come from the Black lipped Oyster, the Pinctada Margaritifera farmed in French Polynesia, but is also found in the Cooke Islands, and several other locations around the world in equatorial areas.