Pearls are an incredible natural phenomenon created by oysters. The pearl is formed when the mollusk secretes a substance called nacre over some kind of irritant.

This could be anything from a grain of sand to a parasite that has made its way inside the oyster’s shell.

As the mollusk builds up layer upon layer of nacre, a pearl is gradually formed, which can range in size and shape depending on the type of mollusk and the length of time it takes for the pearl to form.

Although pearls have been coveted by humans since ancient times, they are now farmed commercially all around the world. Oyster beds are carefully managed to ensure maximum productivity while protecting their habitats.

Pearl farmers carefully separate the oysters and keep them in monitored conditions, allowing them to produce pearls of consistent quality.

Pearls come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes depending on the species of oyster that produces it. Pearls can be white, black, gold, or even pink in color. Their shapes typically range from perfectly round to baroque (irregularly shaped).

The size also varies greatly, with some pearls measuring several millimeters while others can reach 20 millimeters or more!

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Pinctada maxima

Pinctada maxima, also known as the silver-lipped pearl oyster, is a species of pearl-producing oyster found in the Indo-Pacific region. It is one of the largest and most valuable pearl-producing oysters in the world.


The Pinctada maxima have an oval-shaped shell with a thick layer of nacre that gives it its distinctive silver luster. The inside of the shell is usually white or cream-colored and can reach up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length.

Its mantle tissue produces pearls ranging from 4mm to 25mm in size and comes in various colors such as white, silver, gold, black, and champagne colored.


The Pinctada maxima were first discovered by French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat during his travels through India and Sri Lanka in 1782. Since then, it has been harvested for its pearls throughout many parts of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


The Pinctada maxima are mainly used for its beautiful south sea pearls, which are highly sought after by jewelers around the world due to their unique coloration and shape.

They are often used to make jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, or bracelets but can also be set into rings or other pieces of jewelry, depending on their size and shape.

In addition to being used for jewelry making, they have also been utilized medicinally since ancient times due to their purported healing properties when ingested or applied topically on wounds or skin irritations.

Pinctada maxima are the most common type of pearl-producing oyster, and its large size makes it a great source for producing high-quality pearls.

Pinctada margaritifera is another species of oyster that also produces beautiful pearls and it will be reviewed next.

Pinctada margaritifera

Pinctada margaritifera, also known as the black-lipped pearl oyster, is a species of pearl-producing oyster found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. It is one of the most valuable and beautiful pearls in existence.


Pinctada margaritifera has a thick shell with an iridescent black lip that gives it its name. The inside of the shell is white or cream-colored and can reach up to 25 centimeters in length.

Its fleshy mantle secretes nacre, which forms layers on top of each other to create a pearl when an irritant enters its body.


This species originated from areas such as Tahiti, French Polynesia, Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and other parts of Southeast Asia. It was first discovered by European explorers during their travels throughout these regions in the 16th century.

Pinctada margaritifera is a popular pearl-producing oyster originating from the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific. It produces some of the most valuable pearls in the world and has been harvested for centuries. Now let’s take a look at Pinctada albina.


This oyster is responsible for producing the unique black Tahitian pearl.

Pinctada albina


Pinctada albina is a species of pearl-producing oyster found mainly in Australia’s northern waters. It produces some of the most unique and colorful pearls in the world, with colors ranging from white to pink to yellow to greenish blue.

The size of these pearls can range from 2mm up to 12mm, making them highly sought after by jewelry makers and fashionistas alike.

These pearls have an iridescent luster that gives them a beautiful shimmer when exposed to light, making them perfect for creating stunning pieces of jewelry or adorning clothing items such as dresses or hats.


The Pinctada albina oysters are native to Australia’s tropical north coast and are harvested mainly off the shores of Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.

This species has been cultivated since the early 1900s but it wasn’t until recently that its popularity began growing due to its unique coloration and lustrous appearance when compared with other types of cultured pearls on the market today.


Pinctada albina is a type of pearl-producing oyster that produces some of the most beautiful pearls in the world.

As with any other gem, proper care and maintenance are essential for preserving its beauty and value.

Let’s now look at Pinctada fucata martensii (an Akoya pearl oyster)


Pinctada fucata martensii


The Pinctada fucata martensii (hereafter will be referred to as Akoya oyster) is made up of two subtypes. These are the black-shell and yellow-shell Japanese Akoya pearl oysters.


Akoya oysters originate mainly from Japan and the southern coast of Korea. Mass production of P. martensii (Akoya oyster) began in Japan during the late 1890s.

Interestingly, Kokichi Mikimoto was instrumental in commercializing the use of this oyster in pearl farming. It is known by various names, including “Akoya gai”, white butterfly, and Japanese lingah.


Akoya oysters are used by the Japanese in the cultivation of the coveted Hanadama akoya pearls.

FAQs in Relation to Types of Pearl Producing Oysters

What type of oysters produce pearls?

Oysters that produce pearls are mainly saltwater oysters, specifically species of the genus Pinctada. These include the Akoya pearl oyster, South Sea pearl oyster, and Tahitian black-lipped pearl oyster.

The mollusks create a nacreous coating around an irritant, such as a grain of sand or piece of shell, in order to protect themselves from harm. This is what creates the beautiful gemstone we know as a pearl.

Pearls come in many shapes, sizes and colors depending on the type of oyster they come from and how long they have been forming inside their host’s shell.

What oysters make the best pearls?

Oysters that produce the best pearls are generally those of the Pinctada genus, which includes Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian oysters. These species are known for producing some of the most sought-after pearl varieties in terms of quality and size.

The Akoya oyster is native to Japan and China, while South Sea and Tahitian oysters can be found in tropical waters around Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and French Polynesia.

All three types of oysters require a specific set of conditions to thrive; warm temperatures with plenty of food sources as well as clean water with low levels of pollutants or contaminants.

With the right care and environment, these oysters can produce some of the most beautiful pearls in a variety of colors.

What are the 5 types of pearls?

1. Akoya Pearls (Pinctada fucata martensii): These are classic white or cream-colored pearls, and they come from saltwater oysters found in Japan and China. They range in size from 2mm to 10mm, with an average of 6mm.

2. South Sea Pearls (Pinctada maxima): These are some of the largest and most valuable pearls available, typically ranging between 9mm to 20mm in size. They come from silver-lipped oysters found off the coasts of Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

3. Tahitian Pearls (Pinctada margaritifera): Also known as black pearls, these gems come from large black-lipped oysters that live around French Polynesia’s islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Their sizes can vary greatly depending on their origin but generally range between 8mm to 16mm in diameter.

4. Freshwater Pearls: Cultivated mainly in rivers and lakes throughout Asia (especially China), freshwater pearls tend to be more irregularly shaped than other types of cultured pearls due to their mollusk host’s anatomy being less symmetrical than their saltwater counterparts. They usually measure between 4 mm – 12 mm wide with a variety of colors, including pinkish hues, lavender shades, and golden tones!

5 Keshi Pearls: These tiny non-nucleated pearls are formed when bits of mantle tissue become trapped inside a mollusk during culturing process for other types of pearl production, such as Akoya or south sea varieties; they can also form naturally without human intervention!

Keshi pearls range anywhere from 1 mm – 5 mm wide with unique shapes that make them highly sought after by jewelry designers!


In conclusion, the four types of pearl-producing oysters – Pinctada maxima, Pinctada margaritifera, Pinctada fucata martensii, and Pinctada albina – are all unique in their own way.

Each type of oyster produces a different kind of pearl with its own set of characteristics. Whether you’re looking for a classic white pearl or something more exotic like an abalone-colored gemstone, these types of pearl-producing oysters can help you find what you need.

I hope you found this post informative. Cheers!


Shirai, Shohei. Pearls and Pearl Oysters of the World. Okinawa: Marine Planning Company, 1994.

About the Author


I am a pearl and oyster enthusiast who loves to share her knowledge and experiences about fashion with the world. I am neither a certified gemologist nor a reseller of pearls.

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