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Natural vs. Freshwater Pearls: What’s the Difference?

Posted Wednesday, March 01, 2017

You may have seen advertisements or displays of "cultured freshwater pearls” and noticed two things: the appearance of the freshwater pearls was drastically different than that of traditional, white "natural” pearls. The other noticeable difference is typically the price. Freshwater pearls are generally far less expensive than natural pearls.

Aside from their drastic difference in appearance and cost, there are some other major differences between freshwater and cultured pearls. For example, natural pearls occur randomly and spontaneously in the wild—which makes them very rare. 

Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are farmed from freshwater mussels, allowing them to be produced and harvested on a much wider scale—hence the lower price.

Both freshwater and natural pearls come from a living organism, which makes them somewhat fragile. However, freshwater pearls, because of their appearance and lower cost, are often worn on a more casual basis. Natural pearls, with their elegant and timeless style, are usually saved for special occasions.

Natural pearls are often passed down from generation to generation, making them extremely delicate as they are handled and worn throughout the years. In order to keep pearls safe from damage there are some precautions you can take:

  • Restring your pearls every 3 years or so—depending on the level of wear—to avoid a potential break.
  • Avoid wearing makeup, perfumes, or other chemicals when wearing pearls—these can damage the surface of your pearls.
  • When storing your pearls, make sure they are free of contaminates and avoid hanging them for long periods of time—this will stretch and eventually break the silk string holding them together.

Hopefully these tips will help keep your pearls looking beautiful for many years to come. Feel free to stop by the store and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have about your prized jewelry.

Here at Gold Definitions, we believe jewelry is meant to be worn. So don’t be afraid to show off those pearly whites—jewelry, that is!

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By Lesa Catt
My name is Lesa, owner at Gold Definitions Inc. and I would love to share my personal story with you. I have been fortunate to do what I love for over 26 years, a bench jeweler (jewelry repair). I completed my jewelry repair training in 7 years—setting stones and refurbishing worn jewelry to make it look brand new again.

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