Pearls make great necklaces, bracelets, and rings, but shopping for them is far more complex that one might think. Many different types of pearl beads exist, and not all of them are valuable. In fact, the majority of pearls are either synthetic plastic replicas or cultured pearls. Shoppers who understand the difference and know what they are getting can easily find the perfect pearl beads for every purpose.
Cultured Pearl Beads
Cultured pearls are the most common types of pearl beads, outside of imitation plastic or glass. These pearls come from oysters and are close to authentic, but the environments are artificially created to specifically produce pearls. Natural pearls are rare and usually irregular, but cultured pearl beads give shoppers the chance to purchase perfectly shaped beads that are just as beautiful as the natural products, but cost far less.
Freshwater Pearl Beads
Freshwater pearls are either natural or cultured, but they come from mussels rather than oysters. The advantage of freshwater pearls is that a mussel can grow up to 20 pearls at once, which increases production. Some pearls from mussels are smaller and not as round as pearls from oysters. It would take three to six years to produce pearls from mussels that are as large as oyster pearls. As a result, freshwater pearl beads are usually more affordable than saltwater pearls.
Saltwater Pearl Beads
Saltwater pearls come from oysters and take longer to cultivate than freshwater pearls. Additionally, oysters and even saltwater mussels are smaller than their freshwater cousins, and that means each yield is smaller. The draw of authentic saltwater pearl beads is the perfectly round shape and the beautiful lustre. Several variations of saltwater pearls are available, including Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls, and Tahitian pearls. True Akoya pearls come from Japan and feature a brilliant lustre that is almost metallic. They range between 7mm to 9mm in diameter, are perfectly round, and come in several hues. South Sea pearls grow up to 20mm in diameter and have a satin sheen that appears to glow from within. Buyers who enjoy unique colours can shop for Tahitian pearls, which come in a variety of hues, including black, red, green, blue, and purple. Most are around 10mm in diameter, but some of the black pearls grow as large as 20mm.