The main difference between cultured and natural pearls is that cultured pearls form when an irritant is inserted inside a mollusc shell, with human intervention, while natural pearls form organically when an irritant enters a mollusc’s soft tissue muscle accidentally.
Pearls hard, shiny, spherical masses that are usually creamy white in colour and highly prized as gemstones. We can categorize pearls in the gemstone market into two basic types as cultured and natural pearls. Both are ‘real pearls’ – the difference between cultured and natural pearls is the way they form.
Key Areas Covered
1. What are Natural Pearls
– Definition, Formation
2. What are Cultured Pearls
– Definition, Formation, Types
3. What is the Difference Between Cultured and Natural Pearls
– Comparison of Key Differences
Pearls, Cultured Pearls, Natural Pearls
What are Natural Pearls
Pearls are hard, glistening, round objects that we highly prize as gemstones. In fact, pearls are the only gemstones in the world that come from a living organism. They form within the shell of a pearl oyster or other bivalve molluscs. Although there are different colours and shapes in pearls, white and almost perfectly round pearls are the most popular.
Natural pearls form organically when an irritant accidentally enters inside the mollusc’s soft tissue muscle. This irritant, such as seawater sand, dust or even food particles, activates the mollusc’s defence mechanism, causing it to produce layers of secretions, which we call nacre. These layers of nacre slowly develop into a natural pearl. In fact, this process takes years.
Natural pearls are extremely rare. In nature, only 1 out of 10,000 molluscs produces a pearl in the wild. Moreover, most natural pearls have already been harvested as pearls have long been a prized gemstone. Since natural pearls are very rare, they fetch extremely high prices in the market.
What are Cultured Pearls
Cultured pearls are pearls that form with human intervention under controlled conditions. Cultured pearls are ‘real pearls’, and they form from the same process as natural pearls. However, the difference is that the irritant is a surgically inserted inside the mollusc. High-quality cultured pearls need a sufficient amount of time to form- generally at least three years.
Furthermore, we can divide cultured pearls into four categories as freshwater pearls, Japanese Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls. Freshwater pearls are commonly found and are known for their whimsical shapes and variety of sizes and colours. Akoya pearls are the classic, white and round pearls grown in saltwater off the coast of Japan. Moreover, Tahitian pearls are the only naturally black pearls and grown in French Polynesia and Fiji. Although we call them black, the colour can vary from silver to blue to green and purple. South Sea pearls, on the other hand, are large, white or golden pearls and the rarest form of all pearls.
Difference Between Cultured and Natural Pearls
Cultured pearls are pearls that form with human intervention under controlled conditions while natural pearls are hard, glistening, round objects that form within the shells of molluscs.
Cultured pearls form when humans deliberately insert an irritant inside a mollusc shell, while natural pearls form organically when an irritant enters a mollusc’s soft tissue muscle accidentally.
Natural pearls are very rare, and cultured pearls are more common than natural pearls.
Moreover, cultured pearls are not as highly expensive as natural pearls.
In brief, the main difference between cultured and natural pearls is that cultured pearls form when an irritant is inserted inside a mollusc shell, with human intervention, while natural pearls form organically when an irritant enters a mollusc’s soft tissue muscle accidentally. Moreover, natural pearls are very rare and very expensive.