Difference Between Freshwater and Cultured Pearls

Various types of pearls can be found if searched properly – Saltwater pearls, Natural pearls, South Sea pearls, Cultured pearls, Tahitian pearls, Blue pearls, Freshwater pearls, Mabe pearls, Keshi pearls, and Imitation pearls. Among them, the most common types include Freshwater pearls and Cultured pearls.

Freshwater Pearls vs Cultured Pearls

The main difference between freshwater pearls and cultured pearls is that a freshwater pearl is synthesized organically while a cultured pearl is synthesized artificially. Saltwater pearls do not come under this category, though they are produced naturally. At times, cultured pearls are sold out as freshwater pearls at hefty prices to fool the customers who cannot distinguish between the two discrete types of pearls based on quality.

Freshwater Vs Cultured Pearls

All freshwater pearls require a long duration for formation. Many of the oceanic currents and other atmospheric parameters fuel the formation of such pearls. They are solely based on the chance of a particular particle entering the mollusk on its own. Not all freshwater pearls are relevant as many of them get spoilt due to excess pressure or are damaged during forceful extraction. It is essential to maintain them after extraction for better longevity.

All cultured pearls require a particular artificial environment so that they can transform quickly. After the insertion of an artificial irritant or particle into the mollusk, the whole setup is monitored till the time a pearl is seen. Many complex machines are involved in the process. Unlike freshwater pearls, these are produced in abundance and there is no need to search for them in the wild. All cultured pearls are equally sturdy and attractive.

Comparison Table Between Freshwater And Cultured Pearls

Parameters of ComparisonFreshwater PearlsCultured Pearls
DefinitionNaturally-occurring pearls, without any human interventionArtificially synthesized pearls produced by humans
Methodology of FormationParticles enter mollusks on their ownParticles are forcefully inserted into mollusks
PriceToo expensive due to high demandModerately priced due to ample availability
Place of OriginFound in the wild and hard-to-reach areasCan be easily bought from the market
Probability of OccurrenceRarely found due to widespread populationCommonly available in markets since production is increased based on demand

What are Freshwater Pearls?

Freshwater pearls are also known as natural pearls (among other exclusive and rare varieties). They are highly significant due to their organic value and are considered to be precious gems. It is believed that the natural synthesis of pearls makes them harder and the natural white shine is enough to impress the viewer. Cleaning these pearls is a gruesome process as a lot of filth and residue gets attached during the formation period.

It is quite easy to spot a freshwater pearl from a group of mixed pearls since they have an eye-catching glistening appearance. Some wild pearls are treated as rarities due to their scarce occurrence. The harvesting of freshwater pearls is also an important step. In some cases, the collectors keep the pearls in a safe environment as soon as the quality is identified.

The significance of freshwater pearls lies in the fact that they undergo various atmospheric pressures to take such a shape and shine. In this way, freshwater pearls and other naturally occurring pearls can also be considered to be the gifts of nature. The best way to preserve freshwater pearls is to save them from chemical contamination. The age of a freshwater pearl cannot be determined without understanding the full process of formation.

What are Cultured Pearls?

Cultured pearls are also known as artificial pearls. The various applications of cultured pearls include the creation of artificial jewelry and the enhancement of several decorative pieces. There are specific laboratories for synthesizing these pearls as the low price leads to huge demands. Cultured pearls are further divided into two types – actual pearls and duplicate pearls.

The latter category includes pearls made of plastic as well. On the other hand, actual pearls go through the same formation as natural pearls. They can be distinguished based on their hardness and appearance. The quality of cultured pearls can easily be enhanced or downgraded. It is determined by the type of mollusk chosen and the irritant inserted inside it. In most cases, the time of synthesis is more or less the same.

There is an advantage related to the creation of cultured pearls as well – they do not need any initial cleaning since they are produced in controlled conditions inside a laboratory. Due to the large-scale production of cultured pearls, the use of pearls in jewelry formation is no more limited to affluent designers. Such pieces can be polished diligently to match the crystallized look.

Main Differences Between Freshwater And Cultured Pearls

  1. A freshwater pearl is a pearl that forms naturally while a cultured pearl is artificially synthesized.
  2. The formation of a freshwater pearl does not include human intervention, unlike cultured pearls.
  3. The price of a freshwater pearl is compratively higher than that of a cultured pearl.
  4. Freshwater pearls occur in the wild but cultured pearls can be purchased from markets.
  5. It is quite rare to spot a freshwater pearl but cultured pearls are widely available.


The formation of pearls is a widely revered process. The irritants which ultimately get the chance to become a pearl have been considered quite special in a lot of historical tales. All types of pearls have their own significance in the jewelry-making industry but the aura of natural pearls is unmatched. The historical significance of pearls is responsible for the high price and a vast gifting range as well.

It is quite difficult to figure out the respective type just by looking at the pearl. Therefore, several measurement parameters have also been devised for the same. These include tactile tests as well as weighing machines for pearls. It is essential to understand everything about the quality of pearls before making a hefty purchase because duplicate versions are widely available due to the advent of cultured pearls. Overall, both types of pearls can be put to use based on the budget and motive of insertion of pearls.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0928493105003590
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kenneth-Scarratt/publication/263699057_The_Current_Status_of_Chinese_Freshwater_Cultured_Pearls/links/0f31753bb818423708000000/The-Current-Status-of-Chinese-Freshwater-Cultured-Pearls.pdf
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