The South Sea pearl is truly the queen of the ocean. They have adorned royalty and have been alluring people for centuries with their satin-like glow. These are the largest, most rare, and most expensive cultured pearls.
The average size of a South Sea pearl is 12mm, with most harvests producing pearls that range in size from 9mm to 13mm. Round South Sea pearls account for only about 15% of all of these harvested gems, making these pearls very rare and very expensive. The baroque and drop shaped South Sea pearls are slightly more affordable.
Cultured South Sea pearls are also grown through a bead nucleation process. The growth period for a South Sea pearl is upwards of four to six years; twice that of the Akoya pearl. South Sea pearls are grown by the Pinctada Maxima oyster, which have a very limited growing area being cultured only in Australia and Indonesia
South Sea pearls have distinct characteristics that make them unique and set them apart from other types of pearls. The nacre on South Sea pearls is extremely thick, ranging from 2-6mm compared to the 0.35-0.8mm of an Akoya pearl. South Sea pearls have a glowing satin-like lustre that is a result of how quickly the nacre is layered on the pearl in the warm waters of the South Seas. South Sea pearls also have a rare spectrum of colours. The White-Lipped variety of the Pinctada Maxima oyster produces pearls ranging from a striking white to silver, the Golden-Lipped variety of the Pinctada Maxima oyster produces pearls ranging from ivory and champaign to a deep golden honey.
South Sea pearls are rare and special. They command extremely high prices and unlike other gems, they steadily retain their value. In a retail environment a strand of round, matched, South Sea pearls would be found priced upwards of $100,000 dollars and more!
South Sea cultured pearls typically range in size from
8.0mm - 16.0mm in diameter, and much more rarely in the largest possibles sizes up to 20.0mm+ in diameter.
South Sea cultured pearls of the White-Lipped variety naturally occur in different intensities of white and naturally have overtones of pink, green, and silver in varying degrees and combination.
South Sea cultured pearls of the Gold-Lipped variety naturally occur in different intensities of ivory, champagne and gold, and naturally have overtones of pink, green, and silver in varying degrees and combination.
This is apparent when you look at the Mother of Pearl that lines the oysters' shell. As with all pearls, the parent lining is a clue as to the expected colour of pearl the oyster will produce.
A high quality round South Sea pearl that displays a strong overtone is not common. These striking overtones are most often displayed in the keshi or baroque shapes of a South Sea pearl.
South Sea cultured pearls occur in a variety of shapes; such as round, near-round, off-round, and baroque. All factors being equal, the more perfectly round the pearl is, the more valuable it is.