Pearls are often categorised as a gemstone, but these beautiful creations are in a league of their own – a product of a living sea creature. Read our pearl jewellery guide for beginners to discover the difference between the types of pearl available, including saltwater, freshwater, cultured, and simulated.


Freshwater pearls are formed in freshwater lakes and rivers all over the world, and are the most affordable and abundant of the natural pearls.

9ct White Gold Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Twist Ring

9ct White Gold Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Twist Ring


A saltwater pearl essentially means that the pearl is formed in a body of saltwater, or the sea. Valuable saltwater pearls include the Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea varieties.


If a pearl is cultured it means that the pearl forming process was encouraged by a human hand. In nature, a pearl is formed by an irritant, such as seaweed or sand, entering the mollusc which causes a substance known as nacre to form. Cultured pearls are still natural – the major difference is that the irritant is placed inside the mollusc to artificially start the creation of the pearl. Cultured pearls are an abundant type available for jewellers.

9ct Gold Cultured Pearl Ruby and Diamond Bracelet


An important term that all pearl jewellery buyers should familiarise themselves with is the simulated pearl. Simulated pearls are not real pearls – they are crafted from ceramic, glass, shell or plastic and designed to look like a real pearl. They are a great option for fashion jewellery design as they are more affordable and still look beautiful.



Mother of Pearl is another name for nacre – the substance found on the inside of molluscs and coated around pearls. Mother of Pearl is not a pearl gemstone, it’s the lining of the mollusc shell that can be applied to jewellery. They are made from the same material, and both feature the beautiful lustre, however they are different formations.


Often seen on vintage jewellery pieces, seed pearls are small pearls used to decorate and frame ornate designs.


Vintage yellow gold brooch adorned with seed pearls.


Who knew there were so many different types of pearl? We hope this pearl jewellery guide answered all your questions about this beautiful gemstone. While you’re here, why not browse our collection of Pearl Jewellery?

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