Misnomer Concerning Cultured Pearls Verses Natural Pearls
Referring to a cultured pearl as a fake or faux pearl is a misnomer. A cultured pearl is formed by the same process as a natural pearl, except that the cultured pearl begins with human intervention. When an irritant of some sort accidentally get into the soft tissue of a mussel or oyster, its defense mechanism kicks in and it begins to secret layers of coating, nacre, in response to the irritant. The thicker the layers of nacre over the core irritant, the richer and more iridescent the pearl will be. It is this nacre coating that produces the beautiful pearls that we cherish.
Cultured pearls go through the same process, except that the irritant, a core bead made of mussel shell, is purposely inserted into the soft tissue of the freshwater mussel or saltwater oyster. Although some cultured pearls carry a healthy price tag, they are far less expensive than their natural pearls counterpart.
Pearls come in a variety of colors. The host mollusk’s genetics is the primary determining factor of the color pearl it produces. The environment in which the mollusks live may also be a determining factor. There are four common types of cultured pearls, Freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls. Generally, freshwater pearls are the least expensive. Except for high-stake auctions and estate sales, you will rarely find natural pearls marketed today, and if found, they usually carry a 6-figure price tag. Because of their affordability and availability, culture pearls dominate today’s markets.