What are South Sea pearls? A definitive guide

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What are South Sea pearls?

South Sea pearls are mainly available in white and gold, and are usually bigger than other types of pearls. Due to the long growth cycle and low production, South Sea pearls are very expensive.

They are mainly produced in the South Pacific, with three major sources being the northwestern waters of Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Cultivation

South Sea pearls are usually harvested from the sea, which is a limited resource. The search for a perfect South Sea pearl, like the pursuit of a dream, requires a lot of hard work.

In terms of cultivation, South Sea pearls are produced from a unique type of shell, i.e., the Pinctada Maxima oyster. This shell is much larger than those used to cultivate freshwater pearls, and therefore the pearls it produces are much larger.

Because of the rarity of Pinctada Maxima, South Sea pearls are difficult to cultivate and therefore are very expensive.

Size: they are big!

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The mother shell of South Sea pearls is Pinctada Maxima oyster, which is very large. As a result, South Sea pearls are bigger than other types of pearls, such as Chinese pearls and Akoya pearls. The diameter of South Sea pearls is usually 10-15mm. Up till today, the largest South Sea pearl is 21mm in diameter.

Shape: round, mabe and baroque south sea pearls

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The perfectly round shape is the most dinstinguishing feature of South Sea pearls. They are also the most expensive variety. However, for those who already find spherical pearls too common and old-fashioned, mabe or baroque South Sea pearls can be more appealing.

Mabe pearl

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What is a mabe pearl? Mabe pearls are a type of half-rimmed pearls, cultured on the inside of the oyster. These odd shaped pearls are now very popular in the jewelry market.

The quality of South Sea Mabe pearls is very high, characterized by their large size, excellent luster, pure silvery white color and smooth surface. The smallest are 10 mm and the largest up to 17 mm. Available in round, teardrop, oval and heart shapes to meet different requirements.

Colors: white, gold, black, pink

The most valuable of all pearls is, of course, the South Sea pearl, which is unparalleled in color and size. Popular colors including white, gold, black, pink, etc. A lot of people are attracted to the South Sea pearl.

White South Sea pearls

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White South Sea pearls are mainly produced in the South Pacific waters off Australia, from the silver-lipped oyster (a variety of Pinctada maxima). It is by far the rarest cultured pearl in the world.

They are large, usually round, semi-round or nearly round, with a few teardrop-shaped. They have a strong luster. And they are high-grade, high-quality and very expensive pearls.

At present, the total annual production of freshwater pearls in the world is more than 2,000 tons, which is 1,000 times that of white South Sea pearls; the total annual production of saltwater pearls is about 70 tons, which is more than thirty times that of white South Sea pearls.

Golden South Sea pearls

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Golden South Sea pearls, mainly found in the South Pacific waters south of the Philippines, from the golden-lipped oyster (another variety of Pinctada maxima).

Although golden South Sea pearls are produced in Myanmar, Malaysia, Japan, China and Australia, they are produced in very small quantities and are usually found in symbiosis with South Pacific white pearls.

Currently, Indonesia is the only country in the world where golden South Sea pearls are independently cultured, however, due to the difficulty of culturing and the very small quantity of pearls produced, there are only a limited number of golden South Sea pearls in the market.

Black south sea pearls

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South Sea pearls price and value

The South Sea pearl is the king of pearls, both in terms of rarity and price. Currently, a strand of South Sea pearls can range from $1,000 to over $100,000. Its market price is 2-3 times higher than that of Tahitian pearls!

In 1993, a string of Australian South Sea pearls sold for a world record of $2.25 million at auction in New York.

South Sea pearls are expensive mainly because it is very difficult to culture, not to mention the long period of time and low success rate. Despite careful care, the highest success rate does not exceed 83%.

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Australian south sea pearls

Due to the large volume of South Sea pearls produced in Australia, South Sea pearls are also called Australian South Sea pearls.

Great shape and luster

The Australian South Sea pearl is the finest of pearls, its perfectly round shape, pure color, big size and dazzling silvery-white luster exhibit unparalleled elegance and romance, making it one of the most sought-after pearls in the world.

Natural color

It is worth mentioning that the beautiful luster of Australian South Sea pearls is totally natural and does not depend on artificial processing of bleaching and dyeing like other pearls; therefore, so there is no risk of “discoloration” due to bleach deterioration. This is what makes them so valuable.

Farming: excellent environment and limited resources

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Australian South Sea pearls are produced from Pinctada Maxima, which can only be harvested from the ocean.

At present, Australian South Sea pearls are only produced in a very small area of the northwestern coast of Australia, a region with few people, clean water, great temperatures, open bays and few typhoons. The excellent water conditions here are very favorable for the life of Pinctada Maxima Oyster, which produces the highest quality South Sea pearls.

These natural conditions, combined with the superior technology of Japan, i.e., the leader in pearl farming, guarantee the high quality of Australian South Sea pearls.

Strict regulations

Due to limited natural resources, Australian South Sea pearls are very precious and the Australian government, which attaches great importance to ecological balance, has set very strict limits on the harvest of the Pinctada Maxima Oyster.

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Violators are subject to high fines and even revocation of licenses; therefore, pearl companies do not dare to cross the border, which also ensures the high market value of Australian South Sea pearls and the stable development of the Australian pearl industry.

What are south sea pearls? A definitive guide

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6 years of culture

The clean, microbially rich waters and calm bays ensure that the oysters placed on the bottom of the sea live a healthy life for at least six years, and that the surface of the Australian South Sea pearl is smooth, free of any impurities.

The dazzling silvery-white color of the Australian South Sea pearl make them stand out from the crowd in a grand and glamorous manner. What is particularly special is that its silvery color is topped by a shimmering layer of colored light, beautiful and mysterious.

Australian South Sea pearls are generally 10 millimeters in diameter, with larger ones reaching 16 millimeters. Since each pearl is cultured for more than two years, the pearls generally have a thicker layer (Australian South Sea pearls have layers up to 2 mm thick, which is 60 to 100 times thicker than those of Japanese pearls) that won’t easily peel off, as is the case with pearls that are cultivated in a few months.

Akoya vs South Sea pearls

Here is a brief comparison of Akoya vs South Sea pearls.

South Sea peals Akoya pearls
Color Mostly white and gold, rarely black Mostly white, rarely golden and gray
Image LusETUdLFgAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==
Size Largest: 8-18mm(typically 10-15mm) Small: 2-10mm (typically 6-7mm)
Shape Mostly round Mostly round
Surface Fine, smooth Fine, smooth, slightly wrinkled
Luster Cold luster Strong, cold luster
Farming location Australia, Indonesia, Philippines Japan, China, Vietnam
Production cycle 18-36 months 6-24 months
Oyster type Pinctada maxima/ the silver-lipped oyster and the sold-lipped oyster Pinctada fucata/ the Akoya pearl oyster
Treatment Do not require Do not require
Price $1000-$100,000 $300-$10,000
Rarity The rarest of all pearls Rare

To be detailed:

Size: South Sea pearls are bigger

Akoya pearls are generally between 6-7mm in size, with a maximum of 10mm; South Sea pearls are generally between 10-15mm in size, with a plummeting number above 13mm.

In terms of size, akoya pearls and South Sea pearls are basically two species of the world, and rarely have a common zone.

Color: South Sea pearls have more colors

Akoya pearls are mainly white, with a small amount of pink, gray, gold; South Sea pearls are mostly golden and white white in color, and Tahitian black pearls are more colorful, but they are mainly dark in color, containing a small amount of derivative color.

Luster: Akoya pearls have the strongest luster

The luster of saltwater pearls is actually very good compared to freshwater pearls. Generally speaking, Akoya pearls have the best luster, which is also the biggest advantage of these pearls.

Surface: Akoya pearls are slightly winkled

Akoya pearls have imperfections or growth lines on the surface, while the surface of South Sea pearls is relatively more delicate, fine and smooth. For high quality South Sea pearls, we can not see any defects with the naked eye.

Therefore, in terms of surface alone, Akoya pearls are slightly inferior to South Sea pearls.

Price: South Sea pearls are rarer and more expensive

Currently a string of South Sea pearls can cost $1000-$100,000, while a string of Akoya pearls $300-$10,000.

Where to buy South Sea pearls?

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If you want to buy South Sea pearls and jewelry at an affordable price, you can check Etsy. You can buy pearl jewelry, like a south sea pearls necklace or south sea pearls earrings that are affordable and of high quality and have them delivered to your house fast.

Alternatively, if you want to buy high end South Sea pearls jewelry ranging from $500-$10000, you can check Farfetch.

They have well-known pearl brands like TASAKI and Yoko as well as luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, Boucheron, Cartier, Chopard, David Morris, De Beers and designer brands that are unique and less well-known. You can also have all the products delivered to your home.

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