Definition of South Sea Pearl

South sea pearls are the largest cultured pearls harvested in the world. They are produced by the mollusc Pinctada Maxima. They are cultured in areas throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans. Primary producers of south sea pearls are Australia, Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar.


Explorers have coveted natural south sea pearls for thousand years, so much so that by 19th century, the oysters producing these voluminous pearls were nearly extinct. Shortly after people began culturing akoya pearls in Japan, producers began to culture south sea pearls in the south pacific, finally becoming commercially successful in the 1950’s.

South Sea Pearl Mollusc

South sea pearls are the largest pearls in the world, commercially produced by culturing the pearls. The average size of south sea pearl is around 13mm but generally they are produced in the range of 9mm to 20mm.

South sea is the native habitat of largest oyster known as Pinctada Maxima. Where the size of akoya pearl oyster P. Martensii reaches up to 7 to 8 cm in diameter on the other hand P. Maxima reaches 12cm in diameter. We can say, almost double the size of akoya pearls oysters. Because of its bigger size than the other pearl producing oysters, it is nucleated with the beads of larger size, which results in larger south sea pearls.

Pinctada Maxima, Osaka museum of Natural History
Pinctada Maxima, Osaka museum of Natural History

There are two types of Pinctada Maxima, one is silver lip and other is golden lip. They are identified by the color of outer edge of interior shell, this shell is known as “mother of pearl” and produces white or silver color pearl and golden color pearl.

Golden Lipped Pinctada Maxima
Golden Lipped Pinctada Maxima

South sea pearl oysters only accepts one nucleus at a time not like akoya pearl oysters which can be nucleated up to 5 beads. The south sea pearl oyster nucleated when it is not fully developed. At the time of nucleation, the oyster is just 24 month old. A south sea pearl oyster can produce up to three or four pearls over the course of its life.

Reasons behind the larger size of South Sea Pearls

There are four basic reasons, which effects the size of south sea pearls and makes them largest than all the other sea pearls.

Size of Pinctada Maxima

Size of P. Maxima is largest than akoya or Tahitian pearl oysters. And because of the size, it can easily accepts the larger bead. The gonad of the P. Maxima is several time larger than the akoya pearl oyster. This larger gonad secrete the nacre around the nucleus at much quicker rate. The warm temperature of South Pacific ocean increases the metabolism of Oyster, which results in faster nacre secretion.

Abundant food supply for Oysters

The South sea is extremely clean and filled with plankton. It is very nutritious for P. Maxima and completes all its requirements. Clean water and abundant nutritious food supply increases the metabolism which results in faster nacre secretion around the nucleus.

Time Period

After the bead implant, the oyster is left for around 3-4 years. That much period of time results in the formation of several layer of nacre over the nucleated bead. It means the depth of nacre is greater than the akoya or Tahitian pearl.

Akoya pearl oyster take 1 to 2 years to produce fine quality akoya pearl. While Tahitian pearl developed in approximately 2 years.

What is the difference between Golden South Sea Pearl and White South Sea Pearl

There is no such difference between golden and south sea pearl. They are similar in every aspect, shape, size, luster, depth of nacre but not in color. As you can guess by its name, golden south sea pearls are in golden color while the white south sea pearls are in white or silver color.

Golden south sea pearl ranges from creamy white to deep gold. Each of the colors are may be beautiful in their own right but the most valuable is gold. The deepest golden color referred to as 24 karat and considered as the most valuable color of all south sea pearls.

Silver lipped oysters generally produce pearls in white, silver, aqua and blue family of overtones.

white South sea pearl
White South Sea Pearl

Golden South Sea Pearl
Golden South Sea Pearl

What makes them more valuable and rare.

South sea pearls have lots of characters which makes them unique and rare. First of all its size, which we all ready have discussed and the other is thick layer of nacre. The nacre of south sea pearls thickness ranges from 2-6mm while the nacre of akoya pearls thickness ranges from 0.35 to 0.7mm.

One more thing makes them so rare and valuable and that is only 10-30% of each harvest of these pearls are round or nearly round, which makes them more rare and precious.

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