Oyster shell versus mussel shell . The oyster shell is from a black lipped oyster from Manihiki in the Cook Islands.

Difference Between Freshwater Pearls And Seawater Pearls

Oyster Shells And Mussel Shells

Oyster shell versus mussel shell . The oyster shell is from a black lipped oyster from Manihiki in the Cook Islands.

A common query people have in relation to pearls is “what is the difference between a freshwater pearl and a seawater pearl?”

A simple answer is that seawater pearls come from oysters and freshwater pearls come from mussels. When you open an oyster, you will generally find only one pearl. However, a mussel can have up to fifty freshwater pearls.

So What Is The Difference Between Oyster Shells And Mussel Shells?

 Freshwater Pearl Mussel Shell

Our photos show a shell from the black lipped oyster from the Cook Islands at the top of the page and a mussel shell from China just above this paragraph. The oyster shells have a higher lustre. Notice too, the blister pearls in the mussel shell. Both can produce magnificent pearls and the final choice depends on a person's taste, style and budget.

Outside of the shell it can be hard for the layman to know if a pearl is a freshwater or seawater pearl. The lustre on a seawater pearl is generally better, and these pearls are generally larger. However, there are some freshwater pearls today that are large, that have great shape and a beautiful lustre.

One simple rule of thumb is that if the pearls are inexpensive or set on a cheap setting, they are probably freshwater pearls because seawater pearls tend to be more expensive. That being said, some high-grade freshwater pearls can sell at premium prices.

Common Types of Seawater Pearls

There are many variations of seawater pearls and they are found in many different kinds of molluscs. The most common types of seawater pearls being Tahitian and South Sea, with the Tahitian Pearls sometimes grouped as a subset of South Sea Pearls. Tahitian Pearls are found in Tahiti, the Cook Islands and more recently in Fiji. South Sea Pearls can be found in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines and usually come in two different colours, white and gold.

Pearls from the Akoya Oyster are also popular, and they originate from Japan and can also be sourced from China.

Which Is More Expensive - Seawater Or Freshwater Pearls

People often ask, which is the most expensive pearl? The answer is it depends, as there are a number of factors that affect the value of both freshwater and seawater pearls. Part of these factors are based on the pearl grading.

Learn more about pearl grading in our Discover More section below.

Discover More

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