What Exactly is the Significant Difference Between Freshwater Pearls and Akoya Pearls?

When it comes to cultured pearls, Akoya pearls trump the other types in luster and glow. But when you’re not familiarized with pearls, you might confuse Akoya with freshwater pearls. This is an article that tells the difference between the two.


Pearls are one of the very few jewelry items, if not the only jewelry piece, made from a living organism. A by-product of shelled mollusks, they’re prized by lots of women worldwide mainly because of their sophisticated splendor and eternal elegance. They fall under three major classifications: natural, cultured, and imitation. Plus they come in different shapes, sizes, shine, and luster, or characteristics that often dictate their value.

In the past, there was abundance of natural pearls, or those that grow without the need for human involvement. But as the years went by, oysters making them are becoming more and more difficult to find. Therefore people started to create their very own farms to stimulate the production process, thereby resulting to what we now consider as “cultured pearls.” Of this kind, Akoya is said to possess the greatest quality.

Different Between Freshwater and Akoya

If you’re planning on stunning your loved one with an Akoya pearl necklace or pearl earrings, knowing the main difference between freshwater and Akoya prevents you from buying the incorrect kind. Here are the differences between the two.

1. Luster
Although both kinds could have excellent luster, freshwater pearls have a satin-like and soft shininess. And occasionally they could have a rainbow brilliancy in them. Akoya, however, has a much more lustrous surface which gives the whole piece an extremely shiny and brilliant character. Some would say that Akoya’s luster is almost mirror-like.

2. Cultivation
Much like what the name implies, a freshwater pearl is cultivated in farms that use mainly freshwater. Akoya, on the other hand, is produced in the ocean or sea surrounding Japan. To cultivate Akoya, a shell is forced in to the oyster, which eventually coats the shell with nacre, a substance that gives the resulting gem its brilliant outer coating or luster. The disadvantage of this technique is that as the gem ages, the nacre thins out therefore the shell will be visible. As for freshwater, there are no shells involved, so they are mainly to last for many generations to come.

3. Price
In general, Akoya may cost more than freshwater. This is because the sea may be risky and unpredictable. As for freshwater, the natural environment can be controlled, so freshwater mollusks possess the ability to produce more than one pearl at the same time.

4. Shape
Akoya has a round shape, while freshwater is often off-round.

5. Color
The colour of pearls depend on the colour of the mollusk’s shell. But usually, an Akoya can have a blue and yellow colour, while the freshwater-type is primarily white.