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Topics: Pearl, Saltwater vs. Freshwater

Q.
What is the difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls?
- Sally, HI
A.
Saltwater pearls are usually larger than freshwater pearls and are found in oysters in the ocean and other bodies of saltwater around the world. Some of the more well known places they are found are the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma in South East Asia. Australia and Tahiti in the South Pacific are where some of the largest pearls are grown and where you will also find the beautiful black pearls. Other well-known pearl growing areas are near the Arabian Sea in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and near Sri Lanka. Finally, there are the smaller Akoya pearls which traditionally have been associated with Japan although can be found many other places in Asia.

Freshwater pearls are, found growing in mussels living in lakes and streams all over the world, including the United States and Europe. These pearls tend to be less expensive than saltwater pearls of the same size and color due to the abundance and ease of harvesting them. The best known, best quality, as well as the most expensive freshwater pearls are the Biwa pearls cultivated in Lake Biwa in Japan. Due to pollution, the production of authentic Biwa pearls has dropped sharply and many of the so-called Biwa pearls you see actually come from other places. The largest producer of freshwater pearls today is China, and the continuous improvement in quality over the last ten years combined with the low cost of labor makes these pearls a true bargain, for the time being.

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