Pearl Wedding Hair Accessories - what is the difference between freshwater and faux glass pearls

A bride with red hair worn in a low bun wears a pale gold leaf and freshwater pearls wedding headpiece made by Clare Lloyd

Pearl wedding hair accessories for brides - a helpful guide for knowing the difference between freshwater and faux pearls

Pearl wedding accessories are utterly timeless and are always a popular choice for brides.  The trend for pearl bridal hair accessories and jewellery has been growing and this year, pearls are everywhere from headpieces to shoes, veils and statement earrings.  Pearls are beautiful but, sometimes it's hard to tell if the pearls are real or whether they're made from glass.   In this post, I'm going to talk about the difference between natural freshwater pearls and crystal faux pearls - the two types of pearls that I use in my designs - and show you some beautiful pearl bridal hair accessories made from both types of pearls.

I do use freshwater pearls in some of my bridal hair accessories and my jewellery but, over recent years, I've worked with more and more vegan brides for whom a cruelty free product is essential as well as for those who just don't want any animal based materials used in their wedding accessories.  I hope this guide will help you identify the difference between a natural freshwater pearl and faux glass pearls when looking for bridal accessories and jewellery.  As always, any questions, just ask - I'm always here for advice. 

Luna vegan pearl bridal hair accessories handmade by Clare Lloyd

Freshwater pearls: a timeless choice for bridal hair accessories

What are Freshwater Pearls?

Freshwater pearls have been used for centuries to make beautiful and desirable jewellery. Freshwater pearls come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes and they have a beautiful lustre and sheen to them. 

Freshwater pearls come from bivalve mussels and nearly all freshwater pearls come from China where they are commercially farmed.  The pearls can take anywhere from between 2 to 7 years to form and each mussel will generally produce more than two dozen pearls clustered inside of each shell.  

Freshwater pearls are very rarely perfectly round and are more frequently rice shaped or slightly off round shapes . They can also be unusual baroque and barrel shapes.

Freshwater pearls have a high sheen and lustre to them that sets them apart from a glass pearl.

Look carefully at the shapes too as you will often see little growth lines or very slightly irregular shapes to them which indicates that they are natural freshwater pearls. 

A bride wears her hair in plaited braid bun with a delicate pearl bridal headpiece worn in the side of her hair
Issoria freshwater pearl and pale golden leaf bridal hair pins

Wedding Hair Accessories made with Freshwater Pearls

I use freshwater pearls for some of my bridal hair accessories and for my wedding jewellery.  They are a timeless and classic choice for jewellery and a pearl pendant or a pair of simple pearl studs or drop earrings will be worn for a life time.  They are not suitable for vegans as they are made by an animal - mussels. 

Freshwater pearls come in a variety of shapes but I personally love the natural cream coloured rice shaped pearls and I love to combine a mix of different sized pearls to create delicate clusters and organic tendrils.  These work particularly well for hair pins like my Issoria Bridal Hair Pins and Issoria Headpiece (shown in the first photo on this post) with soft pale whitened gold leaves. 

Freshwater PEarls

A selection of my favourite freshwater pearl jewellery and hair accessories for brides.

I can also create bespoke jewellery and hair accessories using freshwater pearls.

Freshwater pearl chandelier earrings for brides handmade by Clare Lloyd

Issoria Freshwater Pearl Chandelier Earrings


Recycled sterling silver outline leaf pendant necklace with freshwater pearls

Sylvestris Silver and Freshwater Pearl Pendant Necklace


Delicate bridal headpiece made from tiny freshwater pearls and crystal

Ivy Delicate Freshwater Pearl Headpiece


Crystal and glass faux pearls: a cruelty free choice for brides

What are Faux Pearls?

There are many different varieties of faux pearl available and I love to use the most beautiful and luxurious glass and crystal pearls made in Austria and in the Czech Republic.  

Both countries have a long history of glassmaking and have been creating exquisite crystal and pearl beads for many centuries and today produce the finest quality pearls available. 

Crystal and glass pearls are made to imitate the lustre of real pearls and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes  and colours. They are cruelty free so they are suitable for vegan brides as they do not contain any animal products. 

Austrian and Czech pearls have a crystal core which gives the pearls a realistic weight which is then covered in a smooth coat of many layers of glass and crystal.

You can tell them apart from a freshwater pearl as crystal pearls are always uniform in shape; they are perfectly round and the teardrops are perfect consistent shapes.  These are luxurious, high end and cruelty free alternatives to freshwater or natural pearls.


A statement bridal crown made from glass pearls, crystals and pale gold roses and leaves
Handmade bridal hair accessories made from oversized pearls

Wedding Accessories made with Glass Pearls

A have several collections of wedding hair accessories and jewellery made entirely with glass pearls and crystals which are completely free of any animal products and suitable for vegan brides. I can make any of my bridal hair accessories and jewellery using glass pearls rather than freshwater pearls. Not only are glass pearls exquisitely beautiful but they also come in a huge range of colours and finishes so they are perfect for bespoke designs where a colour match or blend is needed.

My current favourite glass pearl designs are my Snowberry and Calista collection - one with oversize pearls and the other with delicate tiny pearls.  Perfect for the modern bride looking a slightly different take on pearl bridal accessories and for the vegan bride looking for a cruelty free wedding hair accessory to wear.

Crystal PEarls

A selection of my favourite faux crystal pearl jewellery and hair accessories for brides.

I can also create bespoke jewellery and hair accessories using crystal pearls.

Vegan pearl wedding crown headdress for brides handmade by Clare Lloyd

Luna Crystal and Faux Pearl Crown


Recycled sterling silver statement bridal hoop earrings with white pearls

Calista Statement Recycled Silver and Pearl Hoop Earrings


Statement bridal crown headdress made from glass pearls and pale gold leaves

Harlow Statement Crown


A closer look a freshwater pearls and faux crystal pearls

Freshwater Rice Shaped Pearls

Freshwater pearls

The above image shows a selection of natural ivory rice shaped freshwater pearls.  Note the slightly irregular shapes and lustre of the pearls. 

Crystals pearls in cream

faux crystal pearls

The above images shows a selection of round and teardrop shaped crystal faux pearls in cream. Note the perfect shapes and sheen of the pearls.

Both freshwater and crystal pearls make a beautiful choice wedding hair accessories and jewellery

I hope this post has helped a little to explain the differences between natural freshwater pearls and crystal faux pearls.  I haven't talked about salt water pearls, which come from ocean inhabiting oysters, as I don't use them.  Both freshwater and crystal pearls are beautiful and can be used to create exquisite bridal hair accessories and jewellery.  Which one you choose is entirely down to your personal preference.  I think it's important to note that freshwater pearls are an animal based product whereas crystal pearls are created by humans and do not contain any animal products making them a good choice for vegan brides.

If you're interested in seeing and learning more about my vegan bridal hair accessories, I will be writing a series of blog posts and you can see two of my vegan collections below.

As always, please let me know if you've got any questions and need any help or guidance with choosing your wedding hair accessories.  

Les Fleurs Collection of Vegan Bridal Hair Accessories

Les Fleurs Collection 

Lux Solaris Collection of vegan wedding hair accessories

Lux Solaris Collection

British bridal designer Clare Lloyd

Clare Lloyd is an independent British Bridal Hair Accessories Designer and Jeweller based in Somerset, England




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