Difference Between Akoya and Freshwater Pearls (With Table)

Difference Between Akoya and Freshwater Pearls (With Table)

Pearls are prized gems known for their timeless beauty and elegance. Two popular types of pearls, Akoya and Freshwater, each possess unique qualities that set them apart. This comprehensive comparison will delve into the key differences between Akoya and Freshwater pearls, examining their origins, lustre, size, shape, colours, costs, and cultural significance.

Akoya Pearls

Origins and Cultivation

  • Origins: Akoya pearls, also known as Akoya cultured pearls, originate primarily from saltwater environments, specifically from Akoya oysters (Pinctada fucata martensii).
  • Cultivation: Akoya pearls are cultured by inserting a nucleus, a bead made from mother-of-pearl, into the oyster. The oysters are then returned to the sea to grow the pearls over a period of 10-18 months.

Luster and Surface Quality

  • Luster: Akoya pearls are renowned for their high luster, described as mirror-like or glossy. This luster results from the layers of nacre (mother-of-pearl) that coat the nucleus over time, creating a brilliant shine.
  • Surface Quality: Akoya pearls are known for their smooth, blemish-free surfaces, with fewer irregularities than other pearl types.

Size and Shape

  • Size: Akoya pearls range from 2mm to 11mm, with an average size of 7mm. They are known for their consistency in size, making them a popular choice for jewellery.
  • Shape: Akoya pearls are round or near-round, though they can also come in shapes like oval, button, or drop. Round Akoya pearls are highly valued for their symmetry.

Freshwater Pearls

Origins and Cultivation

  • Origins: Freshwater pearls are cultivated in freshwater environments such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. They are produced by mussels, primarily of the Hyriopsis and Cristaria genera.
  • Cultivation: Freshwater pearls are cultured by surgically implanting small pieces of mantle tissue into the mussel, forming a pearl sac and depositing layers of nacre around the irritant. The cultivation process takes 2-7 years.

Luster and Surface Quality

  • Luster: Freshwater pearls exhibit a soft, satiny luster. While their luster is beautiful, it is less intense than that of Akoya pearls. The luster may be described as more subdued and gentle.
  • Surface Quality: Freshwater pearls, including small blemishes or dimples, may have slightly more surface irregularities than Akoya pearls. However, many freshwater pearls have relatively smooth surfaces.

Size and Shape

  • Size: Freshwater pearls vary in size, with diameters ranging from 2mm to 15mm. They are known for their versatility in size, and larger freshwater pearls are more common compared to larger Akoya pearls.
  • Shape: Freshwater pearls come in various shapes, including round, oval, button, rice, and baroque. Baroque shapes, with their unique irregularities, are a notable feature of freshwater pearls.

Key Differences Between Akoya and Freshwater Pearls

Origins and Cultivation

AspectAkoya PearlsFreshwater Pearls
OriginsSaltwater (Akoya oysters)Freshwater (Mussels)
CultivationInsertion of nucleus, 10-18 monthsSurgical implantation, 2-7 years

Luster and Surface Quality

AspectAkoya PearlsFreshwater Pearls
LusterHigh, mirror-like or glossySoft, satiny
Surface QualitySmooth, blemish-freeGenerally smooth with occasional blemishes

Size and Shape

AspectAkoya PearlsFreshwater Pearls
Size Range2mm – 11mm (average 7mm)2mm – 15mm (variable sizes)
Common ShapeRound, near-round, some oval and othersRound, oval, button, rice, baroque

Colors and Overtones

AspectAkoya PearlsFreshwater Pearls
ColorsWhite and cream are common, some dyedWhite, cream, pink, lavender, others
OvertonesCommonly silver, pink, or greenVaried, soft and subtle

Cost and Affordability

AspectAkoya PearlsFreshwater Pearls
CostGenerally higher cost due to luster, size, and surface qualityTypically more affordable, with a wide range of price points

Cultural Significance and Uses

  • Akoya Pearls: Akoya pearls have been cherished in Japanese culture for centuries and are associated with elegance and sophistication. They are widely used in classic pearl jewellery, including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
  • Freshwater Pearls: They are known for their versatility and are used in various jewellery styles, from classic to modern. They are also used in traditional and cultural jewellery, particularly in regions where they are cultivated.


Akoya and Freshwater pearls offer unique qualities catering to different preferences and budgets. Akoya pearls are celebrated for their high luster and round shape, making them a classic choice for elegant jewellery. On the other hand, Freshwater pearls are prized for their affordability, variety in size and shape, and soft, satiny luster. The choice between Akoya and Freshwater pearls ultimately depends on individual preferences, style, and the specific jewellery piece or occasion, ensuring that both pearls have a place in fine jewellery.

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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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