Types of pearls

Saltwater pearls from the South Seas

Image showcasing a luxurious selection of South Sea pearls and golden pearls jewelry.

Thanks to some of its distinctive features, THE PEARLS from the South Seas are the rarest and therefore represent the most expensive type of pearl. The cultivation area for these pearls is very limited and they have a prolonged growth period, which creates the conditions for creating large-sized pearls. The unique value of pearls from the South Seas is largely due, in addition to their impressive size, to their natural, strong lustre, which does not require much processing to show their natural beauty. Very few pearls from the South Seas are perfectly round, so a string composed of pearls that match in appearance is a rare treasure. In colour they range from brilliant white tones to various shades of luxurious gold. South Seas pearls are highly sought after by professional designers, as well as individual collectors and anyone else who wants to enjoy the opportunity to own the world's most prized pearls.

Origin and cultivation

Most white pearls from the South Seas (and a small amount of gold ones) are grown off the coast of Australia, while gold pearls from the South Seas are usually grown in Indonesia and the Philippines. The pearls grow in two different varieties of South Sea oyster Pinctada Maxima species known to produce the largest pearls in the pearl culture industry.

These particular oyster species are very delicate and highly susceptible to stress and disease and therefore do not thrive well outside their natural environment. This is the reason why the environment suitable for growing South Seas pearls is very limited to Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Attempts to expand cultivation areas outside these three countries have been mostly unsuccessful.

The gold-toned pearls come from gold-lipped oysters from the South Seas, while the white-coloured pearls are grown in silver-lipped oysters. In fact, the white and golden pearls from the South Seas are larger than any other saltwater pearl species, mostly because their growing season is longer compared to other species. It takes between 2 and 4 years for a South Seas pearl to fully grow, nearly double the time it takes to grow other saltwater pearls.

Main features

One of the most distinctive characteristics of South Seas pearls that distinguishes them from all other types of pearls is their size. They are generally much, much larger in size than the average size of other types of pearls. South Sea pearls range in size from 8 mm to 20 mm, with the average size being around 12 mm. Occasionally a South Seas pearl larger than 20 mm can be found, but this is very rare. In comparison, the size of the largest type of Akoya pearl is equal to the smallest size South Seas pearl.

The white pearls of the South Seas, grown in silver-lipped oysters, can have shades of blue, silver and aqua (a light blue-green colour associated with water; aquamarine).
Gold pearls from the South Seas, grown in golden-lipped oysters, have a variety of golden hues including cream, yellow, champagne, honey and deep gold tones. The most valuable pearl color is called 24-karat gold.

South Seas pearls have an amazing natural luster, with the densest average sedef value compared to all other types of cultured saltwater pearls. Because their luster is so natural, even when they are first collected, they only need to be washed and polished to see their overall, lustrous beauty.

White and gold pearls from the South Seas are found mostly in round form, but also in drop and button form, and the baroque form with a circle is the most unusual and therefore also quite preferred. Strings of matched, perfectly round pearls are very rare and therefore very expensive, but the other shapes are used in a large number of high-end jewelry designs, making them more affordable than strings of perfectly matched pearls. You can enjoy the unique size, beauty and properties of South Seas pearls in a variety of price ranges, making them desirable treasures in the world of fine jewelry.

Popularity and value

Considering all the cultured pearls currently available on the market, pearls from the South Seas are definitely the most precious. Figuratively speaking, these pearls are in relatively scarce supply due to the length of their growing period and the limited areas where they can be successfully cultivated in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. These factors, along with the quality of their luster and their various shapes, make South Seas pearls the most desirable as well as the most precious type of pearl to be found.

Retail prices for South Seas pearl necklaces typically range from $10,000 for a necklace to $300,000 or more for perfectly matched strings of pearls, but some designers are making them more affordable by creating elegantly decorated jewelry to display single baroque pearls in their windows.

In general, the white pearls from the South Seas are the most expensive, while the prices of the gold ones are comparable to those of the white ones, but not quite equal to them. The exception to this ranking is the most desirable pearl, that of 24-carat gold, which is priced as the most expensive colour in existence. The value of a South Seas gold pearl depends on how saturated its gold tone is, and usually the more saturated the "gold" color, the more expensive the pearl.

Are quality freshwater pearls expensive?

Wondering how affordable freshwater pearls can be and if you can find high quality ones for your budget? The answer is ‘YES’!