July 17, 2024


Inspired By Shop

Why Large South Sea Pearls are So Expensive

2 min read
Why Large South Sea Pearls are So Expensive

Long ago, natural pearls were very expensive as these were accidental finds. Finding matching natural pearls might take decades! A necklace worth would cost a vast fortune.  But thanks to more than a century of successful pearl culturing, this gemstone is accessible to ordinary folks like us. Yet there are cultured pearls today which can fetch high prices. 

These are the large South Sea pearls.  These are usually cultured in a large species of saltwater oysters (Pinctada maxima ) – they can grow up to 12 inches across. They have to be large enough to accept big bead nuclei. A round bead nucleus is the foundation where the oysters deposit layer after layer of pearl nacre in response to what the animal perceives as an irritant. 

Most of the saltwater pearls are obtained from farms in Australia, Indonesia, Tahiti and the Philippines. The natural pearl colors typically vary from white, silver, champagne to gold.  Tahitian or black pearls are grown in black lipped oysters (Pinctada margaritifera) and result in gray, platinum, peacock, charcoal and aubergine hues. Tahitian or black pearls are considered by some as the finest quality saltwater pearls.
It takes a lot of effort and time to produce these huge pearls as you can see from this Insider video on an Indonesian pearl farm. It can take about 2 years to get pearls in the 10-13 mm diameter range. The pearl farmer has to really take care of the oysters to keep them healthy.  An oyster can produce more than 1 pearl in its lifetime.

In the video, the pearl farmer laments on the high cost of bead nuclei.  Bead nuclei are actually made from freshwater oyster shells.  The most prized oysters for bead nuclei production are those from the United States (mainly Kentucky Lake in the state of Tennessee)  –  Megalonaias nervosa (washboard), Fusconaia ebena (ebony), Amblema plicata (three-ridge), Quadrula fragosa (maple leaf), and species within the genus Pleurobema (pig-toe). 
There isn’t a uniform global system of pearl grading – different areas use their own. But in general, the factors which affect the price of pearls are – lustre, color, surface blemishes, shape (round is the most prized), size (larger ones cost more because of the time it takes to grow) and pearl matching. 



The price really jumps for a larger matched pair of 17 mm pearls, also from the same vendor,  in a highly desirable gold color – almost US$8,000.


But we can still get South Sea pearls if we are willing to compromise.  These 8-12 mm South Sea pearls in pretty colors are nearly round, range from about US$8 – 26 each. The vendor, continentalpearl has a selection of not quite perfect but still lovely South Sea pearls.


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This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 


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