Over the past 20 years, the cultured pearl has gone through what may be the most profound identity shift that any gem has ever undergone. Once considered a white gem, like diamonds, the cultured pearl is now positioned as a colored stone with just about as many shades as, say, sapphire or tourmaline.
You can still see the classic rose-tinged white pearls from Japan in jewelry stores. But you’re more likely to see black pearls from Tahiti, golden pearls from Indonesia and the Philippines, and mauve and orange pearls from China, not Japan – and they’re grown in freshwater lakes, not saltwater bays, using mussels rather than oysters.
This change in pearl-growing mollusk and locale has meant profound differences in the variety of pearls your jeweler offers. Some of these differences you can see, and some you can’t. But they all add up to greater choice, higher quality and lower price, thanks to the many innovations in pearl culturing over the last 30 years.