Do you know the difference between a natural pearl and a cultured pearl?

Pearl Necklace

Photo Credit: Christies Auction House


Natural pearls are created without human interference. They form when naturally shedding epithelial cells land in an oyster’s soft tissue. The oyster creates a protective sac that secretes nacre which in turn forms a pearl. Natural pearls are found by chance and therefore are very rare, and I mean very, very rare.

A cultured pearl occurs with human intervention, usually in large quantities, and therefore are not so rare.

I’ve had clients ask me, “Should I invest in a natural pearl necklace or a cultured pearl necklace?” I always tell them, don’t buy jewellery as an investment, you should buy jewellery because you love it and you’ll enjoy wearing it. There is no point in keeping jewellery in a safe deposit box because it’s an expensive investment and you are worried it might get damaged or stolen. Jewellery is to be enjoyed and admired.  Jewels come alive when they are worn. Besides, the safe deposit box is the worst place to keep pearls for an extended period. (more on that later).

So, if money is no object, definitely the natural pearl necklace. It’s a bonus if the pearls all match in colour, have the same lustre and are either the same size/shape or graduate beautifully-then yes, it’s the natural pearl necklace, bracelet or earrings hands down.

What pearls do you like? Natural, cultured, south sea or freshwater? I’d love to hear.

The pictured natural pearl necklace was auctioned at Christie’s New York in 2012. It had a presale estimate of US$2.8-3.5 million. It sold for US$3,666,500. Despite the clasp signed Cartier and the diamond weighing 3.00cts, D, VVS2 and Type IIA, it was the pearls that stole the show.


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