Is a Cultured Pearl a Real Pearl? | The Diamond Reserve

Is a Cultured Pearl a Real Pearl?

Since the modern-day cultured pearl industry began in the early twentieth century, cultured pearls have become both more common and more affordable than their natural counterpart, featuring in jewelry ranging from classic pearl necklaces to diamond drop earrings.

However, the average shopper may not know the difference between cultured and natural pearls — likely because they’re more similar than you may think.

Are Cultured Pearls Considered Fake Pearls?

Much like a lab diamond is still a real diamond, cultured pearls are real pearls — they’re just made with human intervention rather than found in nature. While clams can also make pearls, most natural pearls come from freshwater mussels or saltwater oysters.

These mollusks’ shells and the pearls they produce are made of a material called nacre, which is why their interior shells are often iridescent like a pearl. To protect their inner body — called the mantle — these organisms surround any irritants that enter the shell in layers of the lustrous nacre, resulting in a pearl.

Cultured pearls use the same process but humans prompt the creation of pearls by injecting mantle tissue into either freshwater or saltwater mollusks. Most of the production for cultured pearls is done at pearl farms in the Eastern Hemisphere, in countries such as Japan, Australia, and Indonesia. Making a cultured pearl can take as long as four years or as short as six months, depending on its size.

How Do You Tell If a Pearl Is Natural or Cultured?

If you’re trying to identify a fake pearl, like plastic or glass beads, examining the shape, temperature, weight, texture, and shine of the gemstone can tell you whether it’s real or not. However, identifying a cultured pearl is a little more nuanced.

Because of the controlled environment, cultured pearls tend to have a more uniform size and shape than natural pearls, which are rarely perfectly round. Additionally, if you get up close to a natural pearl, you may even be able to see the layers of nacre as they will be thicker.

Another key difference will be in the price. Cultured pearls will generally be more affordable because of their shorter production time. Natural pearls are also nearing extinction, making them much rarer and more expensive than cultured pearls.

Whether you’re looking for a cultured pearl necklace or a custom pearl engagement ring, you can give us a call at 303-385-8449 or click here to schedule an appointment.