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The earliest pearl necklace has been dated around 2300 BC, and although pearls can be quite valuable they are not considered to be true gems because they are very soft, about one-third the hardness of diamonds.

Gems are inorganic substances while pearls are organic, forming mainly in oysters but also mussels. Oysters produce saltwater pearls and mussels produce freshwater pearls.

The molluscs line the inside of their shells with a substance called nacre, and when a foreign body enters the mollusk, the animal protects itself by depositing layer after layer of smooth nacre around the irritant. This bead of nacre is called a pearl.

The Myanmar pearl industry started in 1954 when a joint venture was formed between the South Sea Pearl Company of Japan and the Myanmar Diving and Cultivation Syndicate. Myanmar started its cultivation process in 1957. Five species of commercially viable oysters occur in Myanmar 's territorial water, and Myanmar pearls are classed as 'South Sea Pearls,' the most expensive type of pearls because they are renowned as the world's best. South Sea Pearl is recognized as the world's best pearl. They are mainly produced in Australia , Indonesia , the Philippines and Myanmar , and Myanmar pearls are highly valued internationally.


Pearls can be black, brown, gray, rose, red, blue, green, purple, yellow, and white, and the most valuable pearls are a white and silvery color and known as white saltwater pearls.

Myanmar is the home of the world's largest pearl found in the 20th Century. Employees of the Myanma Pearl Enterprise extracted the silvery pearl from Pearl Island in the Tanintharyi Division on December 21, 1966 . It weighs 183.75 carat, and measures 4.1 cm in length, 3.2 cm in width and 3 cm in height.

Myanmar also holds the record for the biggest pearl found so far in this century. Employees of the joint venture between the Myanma Pearl Enterprise and the Myanmar Andaman Pearl company found the huge blister pearl northwest of Zardekyi Island , in the Tanintharyi Division on April 18, 2001. The pearl is 6.2 cm by 5.3 cm with a height of 3 cm. It weighs 845.00 carats.