Pearl Buying Guide

Freshwater Pearls Fast Facts

Shape: Baroque to Round
Size Range: 1.0mm – 13mm
Colors: Pastel colors from white and light pink to dark purple
Rarity: Common
Origin: China, Japan (on a much smaller scale)
Mollusk: Freshwater Mussel
Grow Time: 1 and 6 years

Freshwater Pearls Versatility

Freshwater Pearls are perhaps the most versatile pearl one can buy. They grow in just about every shape you can imagine, have the widest size range, and offer you a generous palette of lovely pastel colors from white and light pink to dark purple. Freshwater pearls surface texture and warm luster make it quite different than other pearls, without the glossy, metallic finish visible in Akoya pearls. Due to the many differences between Freshwater and other pearls a separate quality scale has been created for their evaluation.

How to Grade Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are also graded on an AAA system, with slightly different parameters than the system used for Akoya pearls:


Excellent luster
Best grade of necklace-quality freshwater pearl
Clean surface of 95% or better
Round to near round shape
Top 1% of freshwater pearls produced
Superior matching


Best grade of freshwater pearl
From a yard away Freshwater pearls appear to be nearly round
Are among 5% of freshwater pearls produced today
A clean surface of 90% or better
Matching is excellent to good


Good to average luster
Near round to off-round
Less than 20% of surface displays slight surface blemishing
Listed among the top 10% of freshwater pearls produced today
Matching is considered to be good to moderate


Average to low luster
Shape is near round to slightly off-round
Moderate blemishing is present over less than 30% of surface
These make up the top 20% of freshwater pearls produced today
The matching is considered good to moderate

Commercial Grade

Has average to no luster
Near round to off-round shape
Reveals moderate to heavy blemishes

Size Guidelines for Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls have the widest size range of any pearl type, ranging from 2.0 mm to 15.0.

  • 6-7mm

  • 7-8mm

  • 8-9mm

  • 9-10mm

  • 10-11mm

  • 11-12mm

At this size, freshwater pearls are best for petite individuals as they are small and delicate looking. They are understated, yet elegant. Freshwater pearls of this size tend to be rounder than other pearls

These Freshwater pearls are slightly more substantial, making a refined, subtle statement

These pearls are about the size of a No. 2 pencil’s eraser head. They look perfect on young adult

Due to their rarity, these freshwater pearls are usually not as consistent in shape or size. In addition it is quite rare to find round larger freshwater pearls.

Freshwater Pearl Colors

Freshwater pearls are among the most colorful and appear in a wide array of shapes. Freshwater pearls appear in dozens of colors ranging from lavender, white, peach/pink and color (dyed).