Difference Between Natural Pearls and Cultured Pearls
August 22, 2023

Difference Between Natural Pearls and Cultured Pearls

What are Natural Pearls?

Natural pearls are formed when an irritant, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, enters an oyster or mollusk. In response, the oyster secretes layers of nacre, a combination of calcium carbonate and protein, around the irritant. Over time, these layers build up and form a pearl.

What are Cultured Pearls?

Cultured pearls are also formed by inserting an irritant into an oyster or mollusk, but with human intervention. Pearl farmers carefully implant a small bead or piece of tissue into the oyster, which triggers the same nacre secretion process as in natural pearls. The only difference is that the irritant is intentionally introduced by humans.

What are Freshwater Pearls?

Freshwater pearls are a type of cultured pearl that is formed in freshwater mussels. Unlike saltwater pearls, which are typically round, freshwater pearls come in various shapes, including irregular and baroque. They are known for their unique and organic beauty.

How are Natural Pearls and Cultured Pearls Different?

The main difference between natural pearls and cultured pearls is the way they are formed. Natural pearls occur spontaneously in nature, while cultured pearls are created through human intervention. Natural pearls are rare and valuable, as they are formed by chance, while cultured pearls are more readily available.

Are Cultured Pearls of Lesser Quality?

No, cultured pearls are not of lesser quality compared to natural pearls. In fact, the majority of pearls available in the market today are cultured pearls. With advancements in pearl farming techniques, cultured pearls can be just as beautiful and valuable as natural pearls.

How to Differentiate Natural Pearls from Cultured Pearls?

Differentiating natural pearls from cultured pearls can be challenging, even for experts. One common method is to examine the surface of the pearl under a microscope. Natural pearls often have irregularities and imperfections, while cultured pearls tend to have a more uniform surface. However, this method is not foolproof, and other tests may be required to determine the origin of a pearl.


In summary, natural pearls are formed by nature without any human intervention, while cultured pearls are created through the insertion of an irritant by pearl farmers. Both natural and cultured pearls can be stunningly beautiful and valuable. Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are a type of cultured pearl that is formed in freshwater mussels. Understanding the differences between these types of pearls can help you make an informed decision when purchasing or appreciating these exquisite gems.