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How do Salt Water Pearls Compare to Fresh water Pearls

How do Salt Water Pearls Compare to Fresh water Pearls

Saltwater Pearls Versus Freshwater Pearls | Pearl Guide

Beautiful pearls can be grown in saltwater and freshwater – but have you wondered what the differences are between the two? Read our pearl guide for the answer!

Pearls can be formed in both salt water and fresh water, which each create a unique type of pearl. As pearl cultivating technology has gotten more advanced, it is increasingly difficult to note the differences between saltwater and freshwater pearls, though they have distinct characteristics. They can very greatly in size, price, and luster, but both are beautiful.


What are freshwater and saltwater pearls?

Freshwater pearls are grown in mussels in rivers and lakes, typically in China

Saltwater pearls are created by oysters in oceans and originate from places such as Thailand, Australia, Indonesia and Tahiti. These include Akoya pearls, which are grown in Japan as well as China and Vietnam

How are these pearls made?

Most saltwater and freshwater pearls that are on the market today are typically cultured, instead of formed completely naturally. This means that a small particle of sand or mollusk skin was placed into the mollusk, which covered it with nacre – the material pearls are actually made of.

Generally, the more time the pearl is given to grow, the pearl will be of higher quality and will also be larger. Pearls that are cultivated for a longer time are also more expensive.


Differences between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls


When pearls are cultivated, a smaller core piece is inserted in freshwater pearls than in saltwater pearls. Because of this, saltwater pearls have a thinner nacre coating, ranging from .5mm to 6mm.

Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are made almost entirely of nacre.


Because freshwater pearls’ nacre is thicker and differs in composition from that of saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls are less lustrous and not as glossy.

However, the improvements in farming techniques have made this difference less obvious.



Saltwater pearls are usually only almost perfectly round, which is the most popular shape of pearl.

Freshwater pearls come in a greater variety of shapes (round, oval, etc.) and colors, like the teardrop pearl above. This is typically because they are cultured for a shorter period of time. This is a difference that is also diminishing due to better technology.


Since the nacre layer of freshwater pearls is thicker, they are more durable than saltwater ones, making them a better choice for jewelry like rings or bracelets, which can be subject to wear and tear.

Saltwater pearls are which are more vulnerable to wear and also more prone to chipping. This is something some are willing to risk, however, due to the superior luster and round shape.



Freshwater pearls are less expensive than saltwater pearls, typically because they are cultured for a shorter period of time. Many saltwater pearls are more treasured than freshwater, like the coveted Tahitian pearls. But today, you really can’t tell the difference between freshwater and saltwater pearls, making freshwater a great choice for those on a budget who still seek something beautiful.


Even in recent history, there was a big difference in quality between freshwater and saltwater pearls, and it was fairly easy to tell them apart. But as you can see, today, the differences are so minimal, they are barely noticeable. One of the above bracelets is made of freshwater pearls, and one is of saltwater pearls. Can you tell them apart? When selecting a saltwater pearl or freshwater pearl, it really comes down to preference and budget.