Are natural pearls more expensive than cultured pearls?
The answer is yes. Natural pearls are considerably more expensive than cultured pearls. One might argue that the reason we have cultured pearls is because natural pearls are so much more expensive than cultured pearls. When Mikimoto first began farming cultured pearls in the late 1800s, he did so in response to the growing desire for gorgeous pearls at a cheaper price point.
At the time there were natural pearl dealers all over the world and they were charging a premium for natural pearls. They still do! Why? Natural pearls are rare, uncommon and irreplaceable. A natural pearl is formed spontaneously by nature. A mussel or oyster creates a pearl as in response to an irritant or organism inside its soft body. You might think that every bivalve mollusk would utilize this protective mechanism and pearls would be an abundant gem, but they are not! You can read more about Why All Bivalve Mollusks Do Not Produce Pearls.
Leonard Rosenthal was a natural pearl dealer and in his 1952 autobiography he states, “The struggle between the true, natural, or “Oriental” pearl and the artificial or “cultured” pearl was an unequal one. Although their exterior aspect does not allow them to be easily differentiated, the one, by its rarity, retains a great value,while the other can be sold at a considerably lower price, since it can be produced in a greater number.”
Natural pearls are graded by their carat weight rather than their size in millimeters. Their price can vary from $40-$100 per carat (a carat is 200 milligrams) and up. This means that natural pearls are considerably more expensive than cultured.
We have seen a resurgence in the popularity of natural pearls in recent years. It is almost like after years of interest in cultured pearls, people are drawn to the unique aspect of natural pearls. In fact, mainly found in auctions, natural pearls have been setting records as their value continues to skyrocket.
I am a modern day treasure hunter who travels the world for gorgeous pearls and amazing adventures. I own a pearl jewelry and jewelry repair business, ThePearlGirls.com, with a cute retail store in Athens, GA. I also have a Pearl Travel business and travel blog at TheWorldofPearl.com.