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Are cultured pearls "real" pearls?

October 23,2023


Pearls are the treasures of the Earth that are nurtured in ponds, lakes, and oceans.

Since the discovery of  natural pearls  in ancient times, whether it is classic and elegant round pearls or unique Baroque pearls, this gem symbolizing power and the source of life has always been full of mystery and unique magic, attracting more and more people's attention.

Pearls are loved by people around the world due to their unique elegant qualities, as well as their charming luster and iridescent hues. With the gradual warming of the pearl market, people's demand for pearls is increasing, but the production of natural pearls is too low. After a long period of cultivation, people have invented artificial cultured pearls, bringing good news to pearl enthusiasts.


The identification of natural pearls and cultured pearls is quite difficult, as their appearance characteristics are basically similar, making it difficult to distinguish them solely by visual observation, and using instruments for identification is also quite complex. At present, there are methods such as specific gravity method, cone hole method, endoscope method, X-ray radiography, and X-ray fluorescence combination method, but it is difficult to determine using only one method. Among them, X-ray radiography and X-ray fluorescence combination method are conclusive tests, but the identification cost is too high. Below are several reliable methods for identifying natural pearls and cultured pearls.


When purchasing pearls, some customers may ask the merchant, is this natural pearl or artificial pearl? The merchant replied that this is natural. In most cases, the customer wants to ask whether the pearl is real or fake, because at this time, they have already replaced the artificially cultured pearls with artificial imitation pearls.

But in fact, artificially cultured pearls also belong to the category of natural pearls. We know that pearls belong to natural organic gemstones, which have a direct relationship with natural organisms and are solid formed by natural biological processes. Artificially cultivated pearls are also classified as natural organic gemstones because their cultivation process and product characteristics are basically the same as those of natural pearls.

The only difference between  cultured pearls  and natural pearls is whether there is artificial participation. The so-called artificial participation refers to fishing or cultivating stronger pearl oysters, selecting a better growth environment for them, using delicate surgical procedures to implant foreign objects into the body, and carefully taking care and protecting them during their growth process, that's all. Therefore, artificially cultured pearls are also known as natural pearls.

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls are usually formed in an environment without any human intervention. They are formed within the body or mantle tissue of certain mollusks, surrounding small stimuli.

The production of natural pearls is not high, and the impact of overfishing and environmental changes has led to a decrease in the production of natural pearls.

Cultured Pearls

People have utilized the principle of pearl formation to develop the industry of artificially cultured pearls. The earliest country to cultivate pearls was China, and ancient methods of pearl cultivation were recorded in the "Wenchang Miscellaneous Records" written by Pang Yuanying of the Song Dynasty. Later, Japan carried forward the cultivation of pearl technology. Yukiji Yukimoto, the founder of the famous pearl brand Yukimoto, continuously conducts experimental research based on ancient pearl cultivation methods and cultivates various types of pearls. In 1883, semi circular button beads were successfully cultivated. In 1893, the first semi circular pearl in history was successfully cultivated, and later the mystery of cultivating round pearls was discovered. People call him the "father of pearls".

The formation of cultured pearls requires manual intervention and protection. Since the 1930s, the technology of artificial pearl farming has gradually diversified and spread to various countries around the world. At present, most of the pearls seen in daily life are cultured pearls; Most mollusks used for pearl farming are also artificially farmed.

About The Artificial Planting Technology

Seedless insertions: commonly used for freshwater pearl cultivation, the pearl nucleus is a small piece of living cell membrane cut into 3-4mm square according to requirements, which is taken from the outer membrane of small clams. Seed insertion with a nucleus: It is commonly used for seawater pearl cultivation, and its nucleus is a round ball processed from clam shell materials or other materials.

Selection of pearl cultivation environment: A high-quality water area with fresh water quality, smooth water flow, moderate acidity and alkalinity, abundant algae and physical elements, and minimal disturbance. The cultivation time of freshwater pearls usually takes more than 3 years to produce high-quality pearls. The cultivation time of seawater pearls usually takes more than a year to prevent the outer layer of pearls from being too thin and peeling off.


A high-quality pearl needs to be cultured in the mother shell for at least 2-3 years in order for the core to be covered by a sufficiently thick pearl layer, thus giving the pearl lasting beauty. However, during the breeding period, as long as a small interaction occurs between numerous factors in the mother shell, it may affect the final appearance of the pearl. Moreover, the longer the pearl is in the mother shell, the greater the probability of adverse effects, and ultimately it will be reflected in the perfection of the appearance and surface.

Remember, the pearl core should be smooth and smooth before being wrapped in the pearl layer. As the layers of pearl accumulate and cover, the core continues to thicken and may become increasingly out of round, deformed, or even spotted. So, short-term cultivation will produce larger and smooth pearls, but a thin layer of pearls will shorten their lifespan; Long term cultivation can thicken the pearl layer and prolong its lifespan, but there are few perfectly round and spotless pearls on the surface. That's why high-quality round pearls are so rare and expensive.


The main types of cultured pearls

Akoya Cultured Pearls

Akoya cultured pearls are the most common type of seawater cultured pearls. Many consumers believe that white or cream colored Akoya cultured pearls are a classic choice for jewelry, especially for single chain necklaces. Japan and China both produce Akoya cultured pearls.


South Sea Cultured Pearls

Nanyang pearls are mainly produced in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Different types of oysters produce pearls of different colors, and the color range of Nanyang cultured pearls ranges from white to silver or gold. This type of pearl has a long growth cycle, a large volume, a thick pearl layer, and strict growth conditions, all of which make Nanyang cultured pearls of extraordinary value.


Tahitian Cultured Pearls

Tahitian pearls are sometimes referred to as black pearls and are mainly cultivated around the French genus (the most common being in Tahitian). They come in various colors. It can be gray, black, or brown, and may also have blue, green, purple, or pink highlights.

The above are marine cultured pearls, and in addition, freshwater cultured pearls are more commonly used in the jewelry market.


Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Freshwater cultured pearls are the most common type of cultured pearls and are deeply loved by consumers and jewelry designers. This is because freshwater cultured pearls come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, coupled with their relatively low prices, which have high commercial benefits. They are usually farmed in freshwater lakes and ponds, and multiple pearls can often be produced in one oyster. China is the main producer of freshwater cultured pearls.


The world's pearls look at China, and Chinese pearls are in Zhuji. The first generation pearl market in Zhuji was born in 1982, and it has become the sixth generation pearl market in East China International Jewelry City. After more than 30 years of development, the freshwater pearl breeding area in Zhuji has reached 380000 acres, accounting for 73% of the world's total freshwater pearl production and 80% of the national total production. It has more than 1500 pearl processing enterprises. Zhuji Shanxia Lake has become the world's largest freshwater pearl breeding, processing, and trading center.


Have you gained some basic understanding of pearl farming after seeing this? Many friends often ask a question:

Are cultured pearls "real" pearls?

The development of pearl breeding technology has reached a considerable level today, and people can obtain a large amount of pearls through artificial breeding methods. Currently, almost all the pearls sold in the market are cultured pearls. According to international practices and national jewelry and jade quality standards, cultured pearls are also considered to be naturally formed pearls. When identifying and selling, pearls can be directly used for naming without adding the word 'breeding' before the name.

Cultivated pearls are real pearls, only formed through manual intervention and protection. By capturing X-ray images of the internal structure of pearls, natural pearls can be distinguished from cultured pearls.

However, there are indeed some pearl imitations in the market. Imitation pearls usually refer to products made of plastic or other materials that mimic the appearance of pearls. Imitation pearls are smoother when rubbing against teeth, while natural or cultured pearls have a slightly rough texture.

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