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saltwater pearl

This is a common question that comes to mind when you start looking at pearls as it can be difficult to the untrained eye to tell what is what but with a bit of knowledge you will soon become an expert.

Saltwater Pearls (Also called South Sea Pearls, Australian Pearls, Broome Pearls, or Salties) are the type of pearl which are locally grown here in Broome. They grow in an Oyster Shell, Pinctada Maxima, in saltwater. This type of oyster shell is the largest in the world.

saltwater pearl

Freshwater Pearls as the name suggest are farmed in freshwater lakes around the world in a mussel shell. All freshwater pearls are imported as Australia does not grow any at all.


So the first thing you will notice is the price difference. Freshwater pearls are much less expensive than their saltwater counterparts. A good way to remember this is to compare them as fresh or saltwater crocodiles.  A saltie is going to do a bit more damage to you then a freshie.

Why are they more expensive?

There are several reasons why Saltwater Pearls are more expensive than freshwater pearls.

  • Firstly the Oyster shell which nurtures the growing pearl can only grow one at a time, in comparison to a mussel shell that can nurture up to 40 pearls at once. They take approximately the same time to grow depending on their size usually 2-3 years.
  • Another factor is that freshwater mussel shells are much easier and less expensive to farm in the freshwater ponds and lakes, compared to the saltwater pearls which are farmed in the oceans.

What are the most common pearls?

The majority of pearls we see on the market today are all cultured. That means there has been human intervention in the growing process. In respect to pearls, it is like a seed planted into the shell to initiate the growth of a pearl. With Freshwater pearls, a piece of mantle tissue is usually inserted, whereas with Saltwater pearls it is usually a man-made bead. 

What are the most sought after pearls?

Pearls come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but the most sought after are the absolute round white pearls. The highly valued saltwater pearls of Australia are known for their round white shape. These are the queens of the oceans. But of course, they do come in all shapes & sizes and vary in colour between white, silver, pink hues & golds.

Freshwater Pearls generally have a more drop shape and can occur naturally in any shades of white, pinks, purples and peach colours





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