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Freshwater pearls are pearls which grow in non-saline environment in freshwater mussels. The average size of a South Sea pearl is 13 mm, with most harvests producing a range of sizes from 9 mm to 20 mm. The South Seas lie between the northern coast of Australia and the southern coast of China. These waters
are the native habitat of a large oyster known as Pinctada maxima which grows up to 12 inches in diameter, and can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other saltwater oysters.
A cultured pearl is any pearl grown with the influence of human intervention. Natural pearls, are pearls formed by chance. Cultured pearls have been given a helping hand by man. Today, nearly all pearls are cultured. By inserting a foreign object into a mollusk, pearl farmers can induce the creation of a pearl.
Akoya pearls are bead-nucleated cultured pearls produced in the Pinctada fucata martensii and Pinctada fucata chemnitzii primarily in Japan, China, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia. Akoya pearls are cultured in the Pinctada fucata martensii, also known as the akoya oyster. This mollusk is found in Japan and China. Akoya are considered the classic pearl. They are generally white or cream colored, with overtone colors of rose, silver, or cream.
Tahitian pearls are produced in the black-lipped oyster ‘Pinctada margaritifera’,in and around Tahiti and the French Polynesian islands. This oyster itself is quite large - sometimes over 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds - which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colors. Most "black" Tahitian pearls are not actually black, but are instead silver, charcoal, or a multitude of colors with the dominant color being green.
Truly black pearls are among the most beautiful pearls in the world, and are extremely rare.
A pearl's luster, or its natural shine, is one of the key factors in determining a pearl's beauty and overall grade. Pearls are said to have exceptional luster when the reflections are bright and sharp. Pearls of the highest quality often times exhibit a mirror-like finish, especially when seen in natural sunlight.
Nacre thickness is an important factor when measuring a pearl's quality.
Most governments set a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8mm to prevent low quality pearls from being exported from the country.
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