Cultured Freshwater Pearls versus Saltwater Pearls: Key Difference

Cultured Freshwater Pearls versus Saltwater Pearls: Key Difference

Pearls have been treasured for centuries for their timeless beauty and elegance. Whether used in jewelry or as symbols of prestige and luxury, pearls have always held a special place in the hearts of people worldwide. Two of the most popular types of pearls are cultured freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls. To help you select the right pearls for your jewellery we will explore the key differences between these two exquisite gemstones to help you make an informed choice when purchasing.

  1. Pearl Formation

The most significant difference between cultured freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls lies in how they are formed:

Cultured Freshwater Pearls: These pearls are primarily cultivated in freshwater mussels. Small pieces of mantle tissue from donor mollusks are implanted into the host mussel's tissue, stimulating the production of nacre (the substance that forms the pearl). Over time, layers of nacre accumulate, creating a pearl.

Saltwater Pearls: Saltwater pearls, often referred to as saltwater cultured pearls, are grown inside oysters. A bead nucleus is inserted into the oyster, which then secretes layers of nacre around it. This process mimics the natural formation of pearls, which usually occurs by chance when an irritant enters an oyster or mollusk.

Size and Shape

Cultured Freshwater Pearls: These pearls typically come in a range of shapes, including round, oval, button, and baroque. While they can be round, the majority are non-spherical and often exhibit unique and irregular shapes. Cultured freshwater pearls can also be smaller in size compared to saltwater pearls, making them more affordable.

Saltwater Pearls: Saltwater pearls are known for their classic and uniform round shape, which is considered the most desirable. While saltwater pearls can come in various shapes, the round ones are the most coveted and valuable. They tend to be larger in size, making them ideal for creating statement jewelry pieces.


Cultured Freshwater Pearls: These pearls are available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, lavender, and even shades of peach and orange. Their color is determined by the mussel's genetics and the water quality in which they are cultivated.

Saltwater Pearls: Saltwater pearls are renowned for their lustrous white and creamy colors. However, they can also come in shades like black, golden, and silver. The color of saltwater pearls is often more consistent and predictable.

Luster and Surface Quality

Cultured Freshwater Pearls: While cultured freshwater pearls may exhibit a high luster and surface quality, they often have a slightly less brilliant shine than saltwater pearls. Their surface may also feature small imperfections or irregularities.

Saltwater Pearls: Saltwater pearls are celebrated for their intense luster and smoother, nearly flawless surfaces. This makes them appear exceptionally radiant and valuable.


Cultured Freshwater Pearls: These pearls are generally more affordable than their saltwater counterparts due to their abundant supply and less time-consuming cultivation process.

Saltwater Pearls: Saltwater pearls, particularly the perfectly round and lustrous ones, can be quite expensive, often commanding a premium price in the market.


When choosing between cultured freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls, consider your budget, personal style, and the type of jewelry you desire. Cultured freshwater pearls offer a diverse range of colors and shapes at a more budget-friendly price point, making them an excellent choice for those looking for versatility and affordability. On the other hand, saltwater pearls, with their classic round shape and remarkable luster, are a symbol of timeless elegance and luxury. Ultimately, both types of pearls possess their unique charm, and the choice between them depends on your preferences and budget. Whichever you choose, you can be sure that you're adorning yourself with a gem that has captivated hearts for centuries.


If you are in doubt about which type of pearl is right for you then message a member of our team.