How to distinguish sea pearls from river ones?

Jewelry with pearls is beautiful: mother-of-pearl spheres, shining with soft light, are a symbol of elegance and aristocratic impeccability. In the design of jewelry, two types of natural pearls are usually used - river and sea. We will tell you how to distinguish one from the other.

In appearance

A pearl is a product of a mollusk's reaction to a foreign body getting inside the shell: a grain of sand, an insect, a fragment of a shell. Enveloping the irritant with mother-of-pearl, the animal protects itself, resulting in a smooth, shiny ball. Shellfish that produce pearls live both in the seas and oceans, and in rivers. The chemical composition of water at the same time affects the quality, color and partly the size of pearls.


Pearls from sea shells are usually larger. This is due to the composition of the water, as well as the time of cultivation and the type of oyster itself. If the beads of jewelry with pearls are small or medium in size - do not exceed 6-7 mm, most likely they are of freshwater origin, but the final conclusion must be made, taking into account all other characteristics.


Sea pearls are distinguished by greater color variability: white, golden, cream, greenish, gray, chocolate and even black. The palette of freshwater pearls is more modest, mostly light shades: milky and creamy. The color of sea pearls is uniform, and on river pearls you can often find slightly noticeable spots.


Sea pearls used in jewelry production are close to spherical in shape, they are round or tear-shaped, freshwater pearls are more often elongated, resemble an oval with jagged edges, a pear or a button, an ideal sphere is rare.


River mother-of-pearl "balls" are distinguished by a soft matte sheen, and shelf ones are brighter, iridescent in the light. The reason is the warm water of the sea bays, which affects the "quality" and growth of mother-of-pearl.

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Wild, cultured, artificial pearls - what is what?

It is difficult to find wild pearls for sale, except in author's or designer works, as well as in specialized stores. Besides, the pleasure is not cheap.

In jewelry production, cultured pearls are mainly used, grown inside mollusks on special farms, the whole process (from placing a grain of sand in a shell to extracting a mother-of-pearl ball) is controlled by people.

Do not confuse cultured and imitation pearls. Imitation pearls are imitations made, for example, of glass, porcelain, plastic and covered with a layer of mother-of-pearl. Read more on how to easily distinguish natural pearls from artificial pearls in our blog.

Cost of products

But even pearls grown on special farms differ greatly in price. The cost of a pearl depends on the conditions and labor costs, and they sometimes differ greatly. Marine farms require constant attention: you need to monitor weather conditions, water composition, temperature - with a sharp change in indicators, oysters can die. Therefore, sea pearls are usually an order of magnitude more expensive.

River and lake farms are more stable. The molluscs of these farms are able to produce more pearls - an average of up to twenty, while the sea - only one or two. Jewelry with freshwater pearls is more affordable, and is not much inferior in beauty to expensive sea pearls.

Reading the information on the tag

Among other things, you can determine the type by the inscription on the tag. For example, figuring out what type of pearl is used to decorate a piece of jewelry by reading "freshwater cultured pearls", "freshwater pearls" or "sea pearls" is not difficult.

If you're shopping overseas, look for Freshwater Cultured Pearls (freshwater), Soltwater Pearls (marine), and Akoya, Keshi, Kasumi, South Sea - types of sea pearls from certain regions: Japan, China, the Philippines, etc.

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