Large South Sea Pearls Grow Inside a White Lipped Oyster
South Sea pearls grow inside a large white-lipped oyster called Pinctada maxima. White versions of the pearls are seen most often, but South Sea pearls occur in several other colors, including gold, pink and silver, and their surfaces can display the same rainbow of colors found within the oyster’s nacre.
Like Tahitian pearls, the large host for South Sea varieties produces pearls that can grow significantly larger than typical freshwater or ocean pearls.
Remember that nearly all of today’s pearls are cultured pearls, which means they are created when humans insert an object inside an oyster and allow it to become covered in nacre, also known as the mother of pearl, the iridescent substance that distinguishes a pearl. The more layers of nacre, the larger and more durable the pearl. Pinctada maxima are more difficult to cultivate than most saltwater and freshwater pearls, resulting in a higher price tag for South Sea pearls.
South Sea pearls are cultivated in Australia, the Philippines, and even Mexico, but Indonesia is one of the largest producers.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) offers two types of pearl reports, and reports are always something to consider before paying a significant amount of money for the gems. Both reports are available for loose, mounted or strung pearls.
The Pearl Identification Report details a pearl’s weight, shape, color origin (natural or cultured), the mollusk it grew in, whether the pearl originated in freshwater or saltwater, and any treatments the pearl might have experienced.
The Pearl Classification Report provides the same details as the Identification Report, along with classifications of luster, nacre thickness and a description of the pearl’s surface.
Pearl reports are not appraisals. An appraisal estimates the market value of an object, which can change over time and is the opinion of an appraiser. A report offers factual information to classify an object.
South Sea Pearl Pendants and Necklaces
The necklace shown here is representative of several South Sea pearl pendant necklaces in this collection, although setting materials to differ. This necklace is set into sterling silver, while others are crafted from gold. You’ll also find single strands of pearls in this collection. Prices vary according to the number and size of pearls used to create the jewelry.
South Sea Pearl Earrings
Studs made from single South Sea pearls are popular earring choices, but you’ll find other styles in this collection, too. The linear drops shown here are one popular choice — yellow gold beads sit atop a round white pearl, and both hang at the bottom of a delicate chain. Baroque pearls are another choice, with uniquely shaped pearls that look stunning as drop earrings.
South Sea Pearl Rings
Nearly all of the rings in this assortment have one thing in common — they are each set with a single South Sea pearl. But some rings, like the style shown in our photograph, do include other gemstones, either encircling the pearl or set alongside it on the band. Yellow and white metals are equally popular — be sure to consider the color of the pearl when exploring metal differences.
South Sea Pearl Bracelets
Like the bracelet shown here, most of the bracelets in this assortment are made from a single strand of South Sea pearls, sometimes of one size and sometimes in graduated sizes. Pearls aren’t always continuous on a strand — you’ll find station-type bracelets, too, and a few mix pearls with diamonds. Rock crystal (quartz) beads are used to fashion a few bracelets, and those affordable styles typically feature a single pearl centered on the strand.
Click here to see a selection of pearl rings reviews and prices
South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls are a great addition to anyone’s collection. Their warm colors, large size, and thick nacre make them both unique and durable. If you want a gold pearl, South Sea is the way to go! Here’s a little more information about these spectacular pearls.
South Sea pearls are harvested from the Pinctada maxima oyster, found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and are known for their warm overtones and colors that rarely occur in other pearl types. These pearls are mainly produced in Australia, the Phillippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar.
These pearls are among the largest cultured pearls in the world, for reasons that I’ll explain in a minute. You may recall that an average pearl is about 7-8mm with some types, such as Akoya, running a little smaller. South Sea pearls, on the other hand, are somewhere between 9mm-20mm! The smallest South Sea pearl is larger than the average Akoya and the average (at 13mm) is near twice as large.
One reason for their incredible size is the size of the oyster itself. Pinctada maxima oysters can grow up to 12 inches in diameter so they can handle a larger nucleus. These pearls are also left to grow for a relatively long time – a minimum of 2 years before being harvested. Finally, the warm and clean waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans are conducive to quick nacre growth so they are able to grow larger, more quickly. This is also a reason for their unusually average nacre thickness of 2-6mm. (For reference, the nacre in Akoyas is usually .35-.7mm thick.)
There are two varieties of the Pinctada maxima, gold-lipped and silver-tipped. As the names imply, each type tends to produce either gold or white pearls. As I mentioned earlier, the colors that occur naturally in South Sea pearls tend to be very rare or impossible in other pearl types. These colors include gold, champagne (pale gold), blue with silver overtones, pink, or even pale green, and of course white. South Sea pearls are also known for their soft, satiny luster. The most valuable and sought after color is a deep, warm, gold.
As a consumer, there are several things you should watch out for when you buy these pearls. First of all, many retailers use terminology that is misleading or inaccurate. For example, “Baby South Sea” pearls are not South Sea. They are often freshwaters. Nor are “Tahitian South Sea” pearls South Sea. They are two completely different types of pearls from two different types of oysters! The same goes for “Black South Sea” pearls – those are Tahitians because they come from the Pinctada margaritifera, or black-lipped, oyster. Please avoid any retailer, on- or offline, that uses those terms. Most likely they either don’t know what they are talking about or are trying to mislead their customers.
Why are South Sea Pearls so expensive
South Sea pearls, on the whole, are the most expensive because they are so large, have so much nacre, and are relatively rare. Their warm and unusual colors and satiny luster make them standout choices for anyone’s pearl necklace.
South Sea Pearls Price
So how much should you expect to pay for a golden pearl necklace? The answer will depend on the retailer and the quality of the pearls. A necklace made out of AAA (the highest quality) South Sea pearls may cost as much as $7,000; however, you might be able to find less expensive necklaces if you are willing to settle for lower quality pearls. Alternatively, try looking for a single pearl necklace, bracelet, or floating pearl necklace.
The South Sea Golden Pearl – Why Are South Sea Pearls So Expensive
South Sea pearls are best known for their warm gold color. Although these pearls can also be found in champagne, silvery blue, or even pink, the golden pearl is the most popular. I’ve heard that these pearls are rarer than other types; I’m not sure this is true, but I do know that South Sea pearls are the largest pearls in the world. Their beautiful color, thick nacre, and satiny luster make these pearls a good investment for any pearl aficionado.
Golden pearls come from pearl farms in Indonesia, Australia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. The clean, warm waters of the South Seas are home to the Pinctada Maxima oyster – the largest in the world. The oyster’s size allows pearls to grow as large as 9-20mm, with an average nacre thickness of 2-6mm. The thick nacre makes these pearls more lustrous; it also makes them slightly more durable than other saltwater pearls, particularly Akoyas.
Before you start shopping, you should know some of the common pitfalls to avoid when buying pearls online. First of all, pearls are graded from A to AAA+. You should not buy pearls from any company that claims to sell AAAA pearls, as they will often inflate the price due to their perceived higher quality pearls. Some retailers might also claim to sell “baby South Sea” pearls. More often than not, these are freshwater pearls that have been dyed or treated to obtain their lovely gold color. I wouldn’t assume that all companies that sell these pearls are trying to scam their customers, but it is a red flag. Finally, be aware that “Tahitian South Sea pearls” is a bit of a misnomer as well. Pearls are either Tahitian or South Sea – not both.
A golden pearl necklace made out of genuine South Sea pearls can be well worth the high price tag. Make sure to shop around and consider other styles before you make a final decision, however!