"Natural": Real vs. Fake?
Most consumers often ask sellers if their pearls are "natural." In the pearl trade, "natural" pearls refer to pearls found in the "wild" which have not been cultivated. These are extremely rare and are often very valuable. By such logic, all cultivated pearls are not "natural" even though they have been grown in a partnership between man and nature.
What they really mean to ask is, are the pearls real?
Type & Characteristics
While there are other more exotic varieties available, most of the commercially available cultured pearls today fall into the following four categories: freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea. As their name suggests, freshwater pearls are cultivated in freshwater lakes while the other three varieties are harvested from the sea.
Why is it important to know the color and size differences between these four types of pearls?
Because these are basic, highly visible indicators that determine the trustworthiness and credentials of the seller. Knowing that a pearl has been color-treated (simply because the particular color does not occur naturally for that variety) or if a particular size is considered relatively common for a variety, prevents a seller from trying to pass off a pearl of lower value for higher value.