Understanding Pearl Type and Quality

Understanding Pearl Type and Quality

Pearls are perpetually in style. These timeless jewels look better after each wear. Here is a guide to discerning pearl type and quality.

To understand a pearl's ins and outs, one must learn the various types of pearls and the six factors that influence its value. Similarly, one should know that most pearls on the market are cultured, rather than natural. Unlike natural pearls, cultured pearls form with human intervention. Learn about the process in more detail here. Together, we’ll delve into cultured pearl types and quality factors. 

At Brandon Boswell Diamonds, you can find a variety of diamond and pearl jewelry of the highest quality. Additionally, you can find rare pieces that showcase the beauty of different colors of pearls. Our 3-Bubble Tahitian Pearl Ring features beautiful pearls with Peacock, Dark Green-Grey, and Aubergine tones. And the interplay of the peacock overtone pearl and the luminous, silver-white pearl in our Tahitian Pearl Bracelet creates an enchanting look, as do our Small Bubble Tahitian Pearl Earrings.

Curious about how to care for pearl jewelry or how pearls are cultured and sourced? Read our blog where we go behind-the-scenes into pearl culturing and discuss how to care for your pearl jewelry.

Cultured Pearl Types

Salt Water Types:

(We're covering Tahitian, Akoya, and South Sea cultured salt water pearls.)

Tahitian Pearls

What are Tahitian Pearls? These pearls mainly originate from Tahiti, hence the name. Although Tahitian pearls are also known as black pearls, the pearls can be brown, gray, and dark green with aubergine or pink overtones.

Browse our Tahitian pearl jewelry pieces, including our Tahitian Pearl Earrings, here.

Tahitian Pearl Bracelet

Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are the classic cream and white pearls that are most commonly used in jewelry. These are cultured in Japan and China.

At Brandon Boswell Diamonds, you’ll find a range of Akoya Pearl jewelry, from silk akoya pearl necklaces to akoya pearl rings, and akoya pearl earrings.

Two-Bubble Ring Akoya Pearl Ring
South Sea Pearls

Australia, followed by Indonesia, and the Philippines, supplies the majority of South Sea Pearls. South Sea pearls are the most expensive and are generally bigger, contributing to their higher price points. 

Here are some of our incredible South Sea pearl jewelry. Our South Sea pearl earrings feature a large pearl suspended from a diamond-covered bead. This La Feuille South Sea Pearl and Diamond Earrings pair complements our La Feuille South Sea Pearl and Diamond Necklace as a matching set, both featuring marquise-shaped diamonds arranged to complement the design.

South Sea Pearl Bracelet

What Is the Difference Between Akoya And South Sea Pearls?

Akoya pearls are sourced from parts of East Asia, while South Sea countries (Australia, Philippines, Indonesia) produce South Sea pearls. Secondly, South Sea pearls have the capacity to reach larger sizes than Akoya pearls since the South Sea pearls are extracted from mollusks that are naturally bigger.  

Freshwater Pearls:

As you can tell by the name, these pearls are cultured in freshwater lakes and ponds and are usually from China.

Our Freshwater pearl bangle is not your typical piece due to its beautiful art-nouveau-esque curves. Also, be sure to look at another unique piece of ours, our uniquely gorgeous mid-century modern “frame” diamonds, pearls, and jade earrings.

Freshwater Pearl Bangle


Pearl Grading Scales

No single system exists for grading pearls and determining their value. Pearl grading systems are subjective and differ by the type of pearl. For example, the Japanese Akoya Pearl Grading A-AAA scale is the most stringent grading scale. 

Per the GIA, all scales evaluate pearls by the following quality factors: size, nacre quality, surface quality, luster, shape, and color. The quality factors of pearls in a piece of jewelry should match one another unless it is an intentional in the design.

Pearl Quality Factors


Bigger pearls are higher in value because they are rarer. South Sea cultured pearls are borne from larger mollusks, enabling their larger sizes.

Nacre Quality: What It Is and How It Determines Quality

Nacre, or “skin,” can be referred to as mother-of-pearl. It is the outer layer of a pearl that forms to protect a pearl’s nucleus. Pearls with a thinner nacre or a lower-quality nacre are less desirable. Natural pearls have a thicker nacre than cultured pearls. The nacre quality will show in the growth lines or layers that can be seen by holding a pearl up to a concentrated light source.

Surface Quality

The more blemishes there are on a pearl’s surface, the lower in value. Serious scratches can impact the durability of a pearl and take away from its beauty.


This determinant is the most important of them all. Luster is perceived as a range from Excellent to Very Good, Good to Fair, and Poor. Higher luster corresponds with a higher value for a pearl.


The shape of a pearl can be round, oval, pear, or unusually shaped (baroque)—round is the rarest and most valuable. Culturing a perfectly round pearl is very challenging, making them particularly expensive.

Can Pearls be Different Colors?

The following three elements should be considered when determining a pearl's color: overtone, orient, and body color. Body color is the predominant color of the entire pearl, while overtone is a translucent color, and orient is a rainbow of colors on or below the surface, which gives a shimmery, iridescent quality. 


Here are some of our most colorful pearls in our collection:

Our Sardinian Coral and Tahitian pearl (colors natural) necklaces are ideal for mixing, matching, and layering with your everyday wardrobe. These ravishing necklaces, a subtle pop of color and made up of different colored pearls, are a perfect addition to every outfit. Available in lengths of 18.25” and 20”.

20" Sardinian Coral and Tahitian Natural Color Cultured Pearl Necklace

Our Pink Pearl and Diamond Necklace is another phenomenal piece for you to consider. The pearls are a beautiful feminine pink, and the necklace is embellished with six sparkly, eye-catching diamond rondelles.

Pink Pearl and Diamond Necklace



Pearls are a timeless and sentimental staple that no woman should do without. These are simple elegance embodied. We believe that jewelry is intended to enhance a look and serve as a personal and important keepsake. Here at Brandon Boswell Diamonds, we have no shortage of pearls. Discover your beloved strand of pearls today.