The Pearl and Bead

A Guide to Pearls

Use this guide to find the pearl that is right for you by educating yourself on the quality and value of the pearls that The Pearl and Bead Company has to offer.

What is a Cultured Pearl?

Freshwater pearls come from mussels in lakes or rivers and typically originate in the regions of south/ south eastern China and Japan. Amongst all the pearls, the freshwater pearls are the most versatile in respect to the colour, shape and size.

Unlike salt water pearls, which are cultivated using beads as their nucleus, a freshwater pearl is cultivated with small pieces of tissue. Freshwater pearls are left to develop longer than any other type of pearl and this equates to a pearl that is nearly 100% nacre. The resulting high quality and affordability make freshwater pearls a mainstay in the fine jewellery market.


A bit of history

The earliest known experiments in the cultivation of freshwater pearls can be traced back to the early 1300 in China to Yu Shun Yang., who was credited with inventing the method for culturing blister pearls by lifting the mantle and placing a shaped mould between the mantle and the shell.

The first successful batch of freshwater pearls for commercial purposes, known as the Biwa pearls were produced in Lake Biwa, Japan in 1925. The initial harvest while were very lustrous, were small and off-shaped but with time and experimentation, rapid progress was made in the ability to consistently produce standard shapes and sizes.

During the experimentation process, that unlike a salt water oyster which requires a bead nucleus, the cultivation of a freshwater pearl, only needs the insertion of a piece of mantle tissue secreting nacre from a donor mussel, resulting in breeding pearls with a pure nacre composition.

In the 1980s China successfully adopted the freshwater pearl cultivation technique to produce high quality pearls in large quantities. These freshwater pearls were white and rice shaped.

Today, China produces the majority of freshwater pearls in the World. The techniques from cultivating freshwater pearls have dramatically improved and the pearl size has steadily grown, and today pearls over 10 mm or even 12 mm are quite commonly seen at the high end freshwater pearl market.

The freshwater pearls that the Pearl and Bead Company specialises in are one of the three main types of cultured Pearls along with South Sea Pearls and Akoya Pearls. The term cultured pearls is often misunderstood or misused, but the meaning is actually rather simple, a cultured pearl is any pearl product where man starts the pearl growth process.

Virtually all of the pearls you find in jewellery stores are considered cultured pearls and at the Pearl and Bead Company we pride ourselves on sourcing beautiful pearls to suit all price ranges.

Natural pearls are so rare to find in nature that most pearls are cultured. To create a cultured pearl, a tiny bead is implanted into the oyster and gradually over time the oyster coats the bead in many layers of natural minerals and proteins. These layers are referred to as nacre (Nay-Ker.) It is the nacre that gives pearls their beautiful lustre and colour.

Choosing the Right Pearl

At the Pearl and Bead Company we offer a variety of Freshwater Cultured Pearls. Our Pearl jewellery is available in a variety of different styles including studs, fashion earrings, strands, necklaces, pendants and bracelets. In addition, we offer our pearls in varying price ranges so that you can find the perfect pearl for your style and budget.


While industry wide there is no standardised grading for pearls, the Pearl and Bead Company ensures that each pearl meets our high quality standards. At The Pearl and Bead Company you will find education related to each pearl type we offer and encourage you to learn more about the differing qualities in each.


The general colour of a pearl is also called the body colour. Typical pearl colours are white, cream, yellow, pink, silver, or black. A pearl can also have a hint of secondary colour, or overtone, which is seen when light reflects off the pearl surface. For example, a pearl strand may appear white, but when examined more closely, a pink overtone may become apparent.


Pearls produce an intense, deep shine called lustre. This effect is created when light reflects off the many layers of tiny calcium carbonate crystals that compose the pearl. This substance is called nacre. When selecting a pearl, consider that the larger the pearl, the more nacre it has, so it will also exhibit even more lustre. Compare a 5mm Freshwater cultured pearl with a 10 mm South Sea cultured pearl and the difference in the amount of nacre is obvious. The difference in lustre is as clearly visible as the difference in the pearl sizes.


At The Pearl and Bead Company, we offer the highest quality, rarest pearl shape – round. Shapes that are not spherical or even symmetrical are considered lower quality. Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls found in jewellery have a tendency to be the roundest, while Freshwater pearls can be oval or slightly off-round.

Surface Markings

As a mollusc creates a pearl, the layers of nacre do not always adhere smoothly. Sometimes spots and bubbles can appear in the layering process. Pearls with the smoothest surfaces are the highest-quality, most sought-after pearls. At The Pearl and Bead Company we aim to offer you a range of prices, we offer pearls with a range of surface qualities.


The size of the pearl greatly depends on the type of pearl. Freshwater pearls range in size from about 3.0-7.0mm, Akoya pearls range from about 6.0-8.5mm, and South Sea and Tahitian pearls can reach sizes as large as 13mm.


When cared for properly, pearls can last a lifetime. The best way to care for pearls is to wear them often as the body's natural oils keep pearls lustrous. However, it's important to keep them away from household chemicals including perfume, make up and hairspray. Chemicals found in these common products can dull the lustre of your pearls. It is recommended that you put your pearls on last when getting ready and make them the first thing you take off when you come home. Before putting your pearls away, wipe them with a soft cloth and store them separate from other jewellery to avoid scratching their tender surfaces.