Geological classification

What is the difference between sea and river pearls?

Based on their origin, sea and river pearls are distinguished. Currently, all freshwater pearls are cultured, that is, grown on a pearl farm, since commercial fishing has been banned since the 50s of the last century in almost all countries. Find out what freshwater pearls look like, what color they are and how they are formed in our article.

Freshwater pearls – what are they?

Freshwater freshwater pearls are a mineraloid, a hard gemstone extracted from the shells of river bivalve mollusks. It is not a mineral, but is valued as a gemstone along with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Although it was grown by humans, it is still natural and does not look different from the wild (natural). Pearls simultaneously consist of mineral (calcium carbonate) and organic (conchiolin) substances. Comes in different sizes, colors and shapes.

Saltwater and freshwater pearls: differences

Saltwater pearls are born in pearl-bearing mollusks, whose habitat is the seas and oceans. Fresh water pearls are found in pearl mussels that live in the waters of rivers and lakes. Sea mollusks, with rare exceptions (Akoya), are capable of producing one pearl. The river pearl mussel is more productive – it can contain up to 30 seeds or more. Interestingly, the thickness of the mother-of-pearl is one of the factors affecting the cost. The paradox is that freshwater pearls have a thicker nacre layer than sea pearls, and yet the former is cheaper. The thickness of the mother of pearl also affects the safety of the bead. There are also differences in shape: sea cultured pearls often have a regular spherical shape, while river pearls take on a variety of bizarre shapes. Only specialists from a gemological laboratory can reliably determine the origin of pearls by performing X-ray examinations.

How it is formed: cultivation technology

The process of pearl formation is identical for river and sea mollusks: in response to a foreign body getting inside, the mollusk turns on protection, which consists of enveloping the implant with nacre. This process takes from several months to several years. Freshwater pearls are grown using the non-nucleating method, that is, they do not have a nucleus, which is clearly visible on x-rays. To initiate the process of pearl formation, a piece of the mantle of another mollusk is manually implanted into the mantle of a freshwater mollusk. The oyster is then returned to the river. In what shells are freshwater pearls born? Not all freshwater mollusks are suitable for this, but mainly bivalves: Margaritifera, Dahurinaia laevis, Dahurinaia dahurica, etc.

Shapes, size and colors

As mentioned above, natural freshwater pearls are mostly baroque in shape, that is, irregular, but the shape of some cultivated samples is close to spherical. This feature is due to the fact that river pearl mussels are often “multiparous” and the beads interfere with each other’s growth. The shape largely depends on the location of the embryo in the mollusk. Freshwater pearls come in a wide range of colors, which is determined by the color of the shell itself. White, milky, pink, lavender – these are the main colors of freshwater pearls. The size of the beads ranges from 1 to 11 mm on average.

Where is mined

Just a century and a half ago, fishing was well developed in Russia. There were entire generations of pearl divers who caught shells that were found in rivers at shallow depths – up to 2 meters. In the 1860s, the volume of exports amounted to hundreds of thousands of royal rubles; today the fishery has been discontinued. Many people are interested in whether natural river pearls still exist. It happens, but its extraction is prohibited. Thus, the European pearl mussel has been preserved in the rivers of the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions, as well as Karelia, but now the mollusk, listed in the Red Books, is only an object of research. The main manufacturer is China. Freshwater pearls are also grown in Germany and North America.

Russian freshwater pearls

The pearl industry in our country deserves special attention. Russian freshwater pearls were once so highly prized that they were supplied to the royal court and exported. The production volumes amounted to tons, and 500 times more pearl mussels were caught, which was one of the reasons for the ban on fishing at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. In Peter’s times, merchants used pearls, which were mined in clean and cold northern rivers, as the equivalent of currency, making savings in them and making payments. Wealthy people were literally dressed in pearls from head to toe, as hats, clothes, and shoes were abundantly decorated with them. This was the first indicator of the family’s well-being. But peasant girls also wore pearl headdresses and jewelry, at least at their weddings. Today, kokoshniks and other elements of northern costume can be seen in ethnographic museums. On June 8, 1721, Peter I introduced a state monopoly on production, which lasted until 1736. From that moment on, the supply of pearls in the form of jewelry and placers in merchant families increased significantly. This jewel was loved both in the upper echelons of St. Petersburg society and in the royal family. The most valuable pearls were called sloping pearls; they had to be white or silver and have a close to spherical shape. Several Moscow jewelry firms traded exclusively in products made from Russian pearls until the end of the 19th century.

Where is used

Both sea and river pearls are used primarily in various jewelry, encrusted in necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets, pendants, brooches and set in gold and silver. However, unlike any stones, it is usually not cut. The good news for pearl fans is that jewelry made from river pearl is affordable. The shape of the pearl tells the jeweler-designer what can be made from it. The process of creating a string of pearls, for example, can take years to select beads that are similar in color, shape and size. This biogenic material is also used to create hair accessories and decorative chains for glasses. Low quality pearls are used in the form of extract and powder for the production of cosmetics. The mineraloid has also found a place in the creation of accessories, decorative items, clothing and footwear design for luxury brands.

How to care for and store freshwater river pearls

Usually they try to protect jewelry and therefore wear it only for important events. The main rule in relation to both river and sea pearls is to wear jewelry with them as often as possible, because they show their best properties only in contact with the human body. Pearls in general are not afraid of the effects of cosmetics and soap, but it is important to put on jewelry at least 10 minutes after applying cosmetics and perfume. But direct sunlight and heat are destructive to beads. Periodic baths with fresh water will help maintain the shine of freshwater pearls as bright. After such bathing, dry it with a soft cloth, and the pearl thread in a horizontal position so that the base does not stretch. As for storage, it is recommended to allocate a separate box with soft upholstery for pearl jewelry, otherwise the mother-of-pearl layer may wear out from contact with the stones. Today, almost all the pearls that we see in jewelry are grown on special farms. Because of this, sea and freshwater pearls are often similar in appearance. How not to confuse them – read the article. October 26, 2021 256 0 –> An imperishable classic, a symbol of purity, tenderness and elegance – these are all pearls. He doesn’t age. Jewelry with this graceful stone only acquires new interpretations in its image over time. Previously, pearls were considered status jewelry and were worn mainly on special occasions. Today it is easily worn in everyday life with hoodies and T-shirts. This is the case when rings with pearls, or be it earrings or a necklace, receive a new breath in every new season. The history of pearls as jewelry is sad and infinitely beautiful. Human intervention in the habitat of mollusks resulted in the death of an entire generation of pearl shells. After the ban on shellfish harvesting (in the 50s of the XNUMXth century), Japanese entrepreneurs came up with a more humane method and began to grow pearls on separate farms. It has become more accessible, but at the same time not as unique as natural specimens created by nature. Cultured saltwater and freshwater pearls are often similar in appearance. And yet, despite some similarities, each of them has its own unique features. Which pearls are better – sea or river pearls? Which pearl jewelry is more durable? Read about this and more in a new article from YK.

Types of pearls: understanding the concepts

Pearl is a “child” of nature that is born in a mollusk shell. The mollusk perceives any insect or grain of sand that gets inside as a “stranger” and covers it with layers of mother-of-pearl. This is how a white ball called a “pearl” is born. Saltwater pearls are formed in an oyster, and freshwater pearls are formed in a river shell. Due to different types of mollusks, as well as the characteristics of the water, pearls have slightly different properties from each other.

sea ​​pearl

Today, almost all the pearls we see in jewelry are cultured. It is grown naturally on special farms. To create sea pearls, 1-3 small balls are introduced into the genital organs of the mollusk, which are then overgrown with nacre. A beautiful deep ball of mother-of-pearl forms around the ball within 1,5-2 years.

river pearl

When creating freshwater pearls, the ball-implant is placed in the mantle of the mollusk. One mussel produces approximately 12 to 20 stones in river/lake water. It takes up to 3 years to form a high-quality pearl. However, due to high demand, many cultivators refuse to maintain such terms and grow the ball for no longer than 1 year. Because of this, freshwater pearls with a thin layer of nacre and some defects are often found on the market.

Wild pearls

These are natural pearls (oceanic, sea, river), which are formed in mollusks without human intervention. Today, wild pearls are rarely found on the jewelry market due to the official ban on their extraction. For this reason, most pearls that are passed off as “natural” in stores are actually cultured. It is rare to find wild pearls in jewelry, except in old designer, designer, or specialized stores. Its value is great, so this pleasure is not cheap.

Imitation pearl

This is an imitation of natural pearls made of plastic, glass or porcelain. Often such beads have defects, unevenness and poor strength. The only advantage is the rather low price compared to natural stones.

Stages of growing sea and river pearls

  1. The cultivator embeds a mother-of-pearl bead into the shell of a mollusk;
  2. The shell is placed in a body of water with ideal pH and temperature;
  3. As the shells grow, they are periodically turned over.

How to distinguish sea pearls from river ones?

Despite their external similarity, sea and river pearls have fundamental differences. And this applies not only to their method of cultivation. By examining and touching the structure of mother-of-pearl, you can quickly determine the type of stones. And we will help you with this.


The habitat of the mollusk directly affects the shape of the pearl. Freshwater pearls are most often irregular in shape with jagged edges. Sea pearls are also not perfectly smooth, but in most cases they are round or teardrop-shaped.

Attention! Perfectly round pearls are a sure sign that they are not natural. Earrings with cultured pearls from the same pair may differ in shape.

It is noteworthy that the round shape of pearls used to be more valued. Now, on the contrary, irregularly shaped pearls are trending.

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