About Pearls

There is considerable confusion about the many types of pearls available today and what they are called. We describe the categories of pearls that we sell, using terminology we have found most useful in making sense of pearls.

To choose which ones are of interest to you, click here.


Natural Pearls were called the first gems because they could be appreciated before the invention of lapidary techniques and have been prized throughout antiquity.

To satisfy the demands of the elite, enormous resources were expended harvesting large numbers of shelled creatures, most of which yielded only tiny pearls or none at all. To the present day, wild natural pearls such as conch, abalone, scallop, oyster, quahog and other clams, melo-melo, pipi, and pen pearls are priced on the basis of their rarity. They can be certified as originating from a species with which cultivation is not known to be possible. Numerous pearls also grow naturally in molluscs under cultivation – tiny “seed” pearls are an example – but are classified with cultivated pearls.

Because natural pearls grow in many shelled creatures,  they contribute enormous variety.  Best not demand that they resemble high quality cultured pearls;  that is asking to be cheated.


Cultivating pearls was contemplated and attempted for hundreds of years before success was attained in Japan in the 1920’s. Not only did it bring pearls within the reach of a wider audience, but it provided pearls with size, roundness, and regularity unavailable in natural pearls. Japanese cultivation technology, provided as part of war reparations, helped to launch the southsea pearl industry in Australia. Meanwhile operators in Japan and China adapted it for freshwater mussels, and frequent innovation provides a stream of new fw pearl products. They are so diverse that we need to keep learning in order to remain reasonably well-informed.

Throughout history, pearls were shrouded in mystery, and what knowledge people had was diluted by unrealistic beliefs. Within less than 100 years, cultivation has made pearls available to everyone, but understanding of their nature has not grown apace. Due in large part to competitive instinct that considers all relevant knowledge a trade secret, this is a disadvantage to buyers at many levels of the trade. Few advertisements do much to inform, and articles that include information of interest do not always make it accessible to people who are not familiar with the terminology used. We believe that providing in-depth information to customers enables them to make informed choices, and may inspire enthusiasm… which can even be passed downstream together with the pearls.

To this end, our site provides images, descriptions and background information about some types of pearls we sell. Our information, much of which is gleaned from decades in the pearl trade, is provided to the best of our knowledge and belief, but we cannot accept responsibility for others’ use of it. Text and images may be copied and shared; however if republishing, please attribute to pacificpearls.us. We welcome your questions and comments. Please contact us or email feedback@pacificpearls.us.