Saltwater VS Freshwater Pearl: An Extensive Guideline To Buy The Best Type Of Pearl

Pearl is a precious organic gemstone and undoubtedly, is one of the major miracles of mother nature. 

Whether you are looking for beautiful bridal jewelry or a glittering stone at the center of your engagement ring, pearls are, and always have been, a staple for making aristocratic ornaments. 

But when it comes to buying the best type of pearl, saltwater vs freshwater pearl is an irresistible debate.

So, let’s look forward to these two prominent types of pearls with all their pros and cons below. Hopefully, this guide will make your pearl purchase worth it. 

So, let the battle begin!

A Brief Overview of Pearl

A pearl is basically an organic substance developed deep inside a mollusk tissue. When a foreign stimulant enters the mollusk body, it throws some layers of nacre to encase the particle and that’s how a beautiful pearl is created. 

Among a wide variety of mollusks, mainly freshwater mussels and saltwater oysters produce pearls. Saltwater oysters usually live in the ocean. And freshwater mussels are available in rivers, ponds, lakes, etc.

Nonetheless, the natural pearl-forming process is a bit lengthy. It takes almost three years to form a pearl organically. 

That’s why this precious gemstone is very rare and therefore, high-priced as well. But worry not. There are cultured pearls as well. The pearl farmers cultivate pearls by manually inserting a foreign particle into the mollusk. 

Therefore, it triggers the mollusk to throw a protective layer of nacre inside the shell against that irritant which results in forming pearls immediately. 

Although that doesn’t affect the quality of the pearls. Whether it’s produced naturally or artificially, if the formation of the nacre is good enough, you will get a good-quality pearl. 

Types of Pearl

If we consider the origin, there are mainly two different types of pearls– freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls. 

Talking of freshwater pearls, they are produced in the mussels living in saline-free water such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. 

However, saltwater pearls are mainly marine gemstones developed in the oysters in saline water like sea or ocean.

Aside from the type of water where the mollusks live, there are some other differences as well. Let’s focus on them.

About Freshwater Pearl

A freshwater pearl consists of a thick nacre layer and resultantly, it is pretty durable. Not only that but also you get a stunning radiance and luster, thanks to the well-formed nacre screen.

As you already know, saline-free freshwater mussels produce freshwater pearls. And a single mussel can give birth to 30 pearls at a time if the water is clean and healthy.

This is huge, isn’t it? And thanks to the abundance of freshwater pearls, they are way more affordable compared to their saltwater cousin.

Usually, a freshwater pearl comes in different sizes and shapes including peanut, potato, oval, coin, button, baroque, etc. They are widely produced in China, Japan, and the USA.

Nevertheless, Chinese freshwater pearls are the most exclusive. And at the same time, they are the most affordable as well. 

However, these precious gemstones could be either l organically produced or cultured. If cultured, you can get them in the pearl farms. 

On the contrary, natural freshwater pearls are found in the wild. And being naturally formed, they are more durable than cultured ones.

Pros and Cons of Freshwater Pearl

Now, let’s point out the pluses and minuses of buying freshwater pearls, be they natural or cultured.


  • Available in a wider range than its saltwater form
  • Less expensive
  • Offers more variations in shape and color
  • Compatible with everyday wear
  • Consists of a thick nacre layer


  • Less durable than the saltwater ones
  • You cannot wear them while swimming or showering

What Is Saltwater Pearl?

Saltwater Pearls

Have you heard of the famous South Sea pearl? Or, about the Akoya pearls? They all are prominent saltwater pearls. 

Being formed by a saltwater mollusk in a saline environment, a saltwater pearl is usually rounder in shape than a freshwater one.

But it offers fewer varieties of shapes and colors at the same time. 

However, a saltwater pearl is larger than freshwater ones and due to its scarcity, it’s quite expensive as well. 

The three major types of saltwater pearls are Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls.

Among them, the Akoya pearls are the most common type and the South Sea pearls are the largest type.

Similar to freshwater pearls, they could be produced both naturally and artificially. The later types are called cultured saltwater pearls which are widely cultivated in the pearl farms of Australia, China, and Japan.

However, they cannot be found abundantly as a saltwater oyster only produces 1-3 pearls at a time.

Pros and Cons of Saltwater Pearl

The amenities and drawbacks of saltwater pearls are as follows-


  • Comes in a perfect round shape
  • Compatible to wear in the shower and swimming pool
  • Larger and more durable than its freshwater cousin 


  • Not available in abundance
  • Narrower range of shapes and colors
  • More expensive

Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearl: Which Is Better?

Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearl: Which Is Better?

After going through the pros and cons of both the pearls, it’s only natural to compare and contrast them placed side by side. Let’s look forward to their key characteristics to decide on the better pearl type between these two. 


You could easily tell the difference by their colors. Saltwater pearls mainly come in white, off-white or, cream color. But there is a wide range of color palettes for freshwater ones including blue, green, pink, and even black. 


As we all know, saltwater pearls are perfectly shaped as round. But you get a variety of shapes and sizes for its freshwater cousin. 

However, saltwater pearls are larger than freshwater ones.  


As saltwater pearls are rarer, they are more expensive. So, you cannot afford them if you have a healthy budget. 

On the other hand, freshwater pearls are adequately produced and that’s why they are more affordable.


Well, the basic difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls lies in their environment. The former is formed by saltwater oysters whereas the latter is produced in freshwater mollusks. 

Nacre Coating

Compared to the freshwater pearls, the saltwater ones consist of a thinner nacre layer from 0.5mm to 6mm.

But a freshwater pearl is almost 100% nacre. 

Ao, while buying a saltwater pearl, always go for the one having a thicker nacre coating if you want it to last longer. 

Comparison Chart

Area of ComparisonSaltwater PearlFreshwater Pearl
Water Type Saline WaterFresh Water
Mollusk Type OystersMussels
Residing Place of the MolluskSea, Ocean Pond, River, or Lake
ShapeRound/SphericalRound or Oval
ColorWhite and CreamWhite, Cream, Blue, Pink, Copper, and many more
PriceMore Expensive Less Expensive 
Nacre LayerThinnerThicker
Time of Natural Formation 6-18 Months3-6 Years
Pearl Production at a Time1-3 Pearls30-50 Pearls
Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearl


Are saltwater pearls worth anything?

Absolutely yes. Natural saltwater pearls are extremely rare and boast a high price tag because of their scarcity. Also, they offer an incredible luster and shine. A single saltwater pearl could range $500-$2000 depending on its quality. 

Why are saltwater pearls more expensive?

Due to their rarity. As a saltwater oyster could grow only one pearl at a time, they are not readily available to meet the demands. Moreover, a near-perfect spherical/round shape boosts their price tag.

Which pearl is the best quality?

Among the cultured pearls, Akoya pearls are considered the best. They are classic white pearls with a perfectly round shape. Moreover, the timeless metallic luster makes them highly desirable among jewels.

Are freshwater pearls worth buying?

Yes, they are. Being cheaper and affordable, freshwater pearls are worth buying for everyday use, thanks to their thicker nacre layers.

Final Words

Whether it’s natural or cultured, the pearl is, indeed, the most-loved gemstone for centuries.

But which is the best category pearl between saltwater vs freshwater pearls?

Undoubtedly, the saltwater ones for their splendid sparkle and radiance. Besides, you can use them while swimming or showering as well. 

But they are really expensive. So, freshwater pearls could be its affordable alternatives which are pretty decent and durable. You can definitely go for them as they are as real as the saltwater ones, not artificial objects as many people assume.