OM-International Ltd

South Sea Pearls

South Sea Pearls are large in size.

Usually, ranging from 9mm to 18mm in diameter, South Sea pearls are also reputable for their strong nacre coatin-g surrounding its mother-of-pearl nuclei.

A true monarch of cultured pearls, it is worn in its natural state, hence not needing any colour enhancements.

South Sea pearls are grouped in two colour categories:

  • White South Sea pearls
  • Dark South Sea pearls

The white ones are characteristic of cultivations in Australia, Indonesia and the Philipines.

The Dark South Sea pearls are notoriously represented by the black Tahitians. These are characteristic of the dark South Sea gender, originating in the ´black-lipped´ oyster.

The Black South Sea pearls come, not only from Tahiti, but also from the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia.

There is a third quality of South Sea pearls although somewhat more rare. These are the Golden South Sea pearls. They originate from the ´Gold-Lipped´oyster found in Indonesia and Australia.

South Sea cultured pearls are usually high priced due to their scarcity.

The range in value may vary according to the size, lustre, shape, colour and degree of natural blemishes. In the case of strands, the matching of all criteria mentioned above will determine the price anywhere from one to ten thousand U.S. dollars or more.

Japan Akoya Cultured Pearls

More often than not, the Akoya cultured pearl is small in size hence smaller than the South Sea pearls. Akoyas range anywhere from 2mm to 9mm in diameter. Originally cultivated in Japan, the Akoya is considered to be the most traditional of the cultured pearls.

In the early stages of Akoya cultivation and production, most harvests came from Japan. More recently, the Chinese have been producing large quantities of `Chinese Akoyas´ at lower costs. This fact has constituted a threat to the Japanese cultivation presently.

The original and characteristic colours of Akoyas are essentially white, cream, yellow, golden and grey.

These original colours are often enhanced and treated to the traditional Akoya white, silver, pink and champagne colours.The Akoya pearls are usually round and near round, however, one can find other more unusual shapes, such as oval and drop.

A strand of Akoya pearls can be priced up to a few thousand dollars based on all criteria inherent to matching.

Freshwater Cultured Pearls

The Freshwater pearls represent a vast universe of shapes, colours and sizes.

In size, these pearls usually range from 2mm to 10mm, whereby 5mm would be an average size. Nevertheless, it is possible to find larger sizes.

Cultivation of the first freshwater pearls was initiated by the Chinese using freshwater mussels.

The Japanese, in accordance with their enjoyed success in cultured sea pearls, ventured into freshwater pearls by using freshwater mussels in Lake Biwa. This cultivation eventually terminated due to polluted waters.

As opposed to the nuclei insertion, it was discovered that one could insert small strips of mantle tissue in molluscs, allowing the production of up to 10 pearls per mollusc. This, obviously, represents an appealing price factor to the end user.

Although the Japanese were more successful at initiating the cultivation methods, in the freshwater pearls, the Chinese have enhanced and perfected it at lower costs.

Any back pond in mainland China is used for freshwater farming.

Characteristic shapes are the ´potato´, oval, button and drop.


These are composite cultured pearls, usually dome shaped. A nucleus with a flat back is glued to the inner surface of the shell, whereby the oyster will then produce nacre to surround the glued intrusion. A mother-of-pearl dome will be created.

Mabe pearls are lower in cost. They are usually mounted on earrings, pendants, rings and brooches.


Keshi pearls are created naturally in the soft tissue of oysters used in pearl cultivation.

Often found as a bi-product, in oysters used for other cultivations, Keshi pearls come in odd shapes and sizes.

Keshi pearls found in South Sea oysters are larger, however still irregular in shape.

* Some of the content on this page was inspired by Andy Mueller's book entitled Cultured Pearls.