How are saltwater pearls made

Saltwater pearls

Pearls arise in oysters that live in the sea (salt water) or in freshwater mussels. Traditionally, most of the pearls came from the saltwater cultures in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the coastal regions of India and Japan. China harvested freshwater pearls over several centuries.

Saltwater pearls tend to have a more radiant shine than their relatives from freshwater, which is why they are more sought-after and higher in value.

All saltwater pearls produced today are pearls seeded with a bead. Pure natural pearls are still collected in the Persian Gulf, but their yield is too low to establish a real market value. These pearls also rarely leave the region.


Saltwater pearls are cultivated by opening an oyster shell 2-3 centimeters. An expert uses a special instrument to carve a tiny incision into the oyster’s mantle tissue. A bead is inserted into the small hole as a core, together with a piece of cladding tissue. The cells in the mantle tissue grow around the core and form a "pearl bag". The pearl grows in it. This method is used for all saltwater pearls grown today.

The 3 known types of saltwater pearls are Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls. would like to thank Edelkontor for providing us with image and text material.

Copyright / Dorothea Burisch

Any duplication or use of the photos and texts shown here in other electronic or printed publications is not permitted without our express consent and will be prosecuted.