Natural Pearls

Natural Pearls are usually erratic and have a white / gray color with usually a blue sheen. Uncultivated pearls, which are also called 'wild' or 'natural (habitat)' pearls, have, like freshwater pearls, very often a whimsical shape. You have to open 10,000 to 15,000 oysters to find one Natural Pearls.

As mentioned earlier, an oyster will make a pearl if an intruder damages the skin. This invader is usually a crab in the natural habitat of the oyster: a piece of shell, seaweed or the like. Because during the process of making the pearl such an organic invader often completely decays (absorbed into decomposition gases), the Natural Pearls often has no core (anymore), just like the cultured freshwater pearl. They surfaced in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Mannar between Sri Lanka and India. Real pearls came from the "pinctada Radiata" oyster species.  

Real Natural Pearls are generally very small and not round in shape, but of course a round pearl has more value. They often have a yellowish glow. Real Natural Pearls are found in the sizes of 2 to 7 mm.

Pearl Diver

Pearl Diver sometimes diving to a depth of 40 meters with one breath and always in danger of being attacked by sharks. For thousands of years this was the only way to find Natural Pearls. It is said that for a harvest of three or four beautiful pearls a ton of oysters had to be fished.

Pearls from the earlier "dive time" are therefore very rare and expensive. Fishing or diving on real pearls now happens little more. There are a few special nature-pearl stores that only act in this type of pearls. They travel around the world to test heirlooms and antique pearls for authenticity and to buy. This testing is done with a kind of X-ray machine. If these specialists find a string of real pearls and can buy them, they clean these pearls again, string them again and bring them back to sales at trade fairs and auctions. The price of a reasonably nice string of real pearls from 2 to 4 mm starts around € 1500, - € a € 2000, -. There are string real pearls that cost more than 4 million euros!

Pink Natural Pearls

Light to dark pink pearls are formed in Strombus gigas (Linnaeus, 1758), a large pink sea snail (up to 30 centimeters long) that lives in the waters of Bermuda, South Florida, Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Venezuela and Brazil. Thirty meters deep. The pearls are rare; namely 1 in 10,000 S. gigas produces a pearl of which only 1 in 100 actually has a salable quality.

Orange Natural Pearls

Orange pearls originate from Melo (Lightfoot, 1786), again a large sea snail, which can reach a length of up to 36 centimeters. The species is found in Southeast Asia, the South China Sea, and the Bay of Bengal and can be found at a depth of twenty to one hundred meters. The shell is light to dark orange in color and can occur with or without brown bands. The inner shell layer is often slightly darker in color, so that the pearls are orange-red, orange or yellow-brownish. The pearls appear to be rarer than the pink pearls of S. gigas, but no statistics are kept about the occurrence of a pearl in a M. melo. Experienced divers who sell the meat say that they are lucky to find a two-centimeter pearl during their careers. The larger species that create the larger pearls live at a depth of 70 to 100 meters the waters of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, these countries do not have the technology to collect the sea snail at that depth. The largest pearl that was found was 3.7 inches in diameter and the largest that was sold over 3.1 inches in diameter for well over $ 277,000. 

Purple Natural Pearls

The rarest type of pearl is the purple variation produced by the saltwater mussel Mercenaria (Linnaeus, 1758). The habitat of this species starts at Red Island and continues to South Florida, in America. The animal lives up to 10 meters deep and the shell is a lilac to dark purple. About 1 in 100,000 M. mercenaria is a pearl, of which 1 in 20 is at least 6 millimeters and of such quality that it is sold. The rarest pearls have the dark purple color. The largest pearl found so far, dating back to 1860 - 1885, is fourteen millimeters long and has a drop shape. In 1860-1885 the deep purple pearl is inlaid in a brooch whose value is estimated at $ 1 million. 

Recognize Real Natural Pearls

In terms of appearance it is very difficult to distinguish a real gem from a cultivated pearl. There are some experts who can see it but most of us are not covered by it and even the expert can make mistakes. Some indications that a pearl can really be: 

With a pearl necklace

Check whether the pearls fit together. Because of the rarity of pearls you will see with real pearl necklaces that the pearls do not fit together and differ in size and shape. Natural Pearls will often not be perfectly round. 

The color

True pearls are often a bit browner in color whereas cultivated pearls are often white (although cultured pearls are now available in all colors and shapes on the market). Real pearls are also creamier in color. With pearls in a jewel, Look carefully at the jewelry itself. Pearls have always been expensive and were therefore also put in expensive settings or a pearl necklace had an expensive closure. It may well be that cultured pearls are put in an expensive setting. So this does not give a hundred percent conclusion that the pearls are real but could be a clue. 


Look at drilled beads with a magnifying glass to the drill hole. Real pearls have a thick layer of mother-of-pearl while cultivated pearls have a thin layer. At the drill hole you can often see how thick the mother-of-pearl is low. 

View the pearl with a UV light

True pearls will look yellow or beige and will differ in color with cultivated pearls milky or blue-whitish. To be certain that the pearl is real, X-rays must be used. This can only be done by special laboratories. 

Note: that a piece of jewelry is old does not necessarily mean that the pearls are real! The pearls can be imitation pearls or later cultured pearls can be used.

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