Pearls can actually be divided into four main categories: Akoya Pearl, South Sea Pearl, Tahitian Pearl and Chinese freshwater pearl. From these, the largest main producing countries of which are Japan, Australia, France and China respectively.
However, a more appropriate way to tell pearl categories is not from the area but rather from the types of oysters the pearls grow in. In another word, any place may produce any type of pearls as long as the specific type of oyster is able to live and produce pearls. Although, it is not easy for oysters to survive when the living environment has been changed.
Proudly, China already succeeded in producing South Sea Pearls in Hainan Province, and Akoya Pearls in Hepu, Guangxi. South Sea Pearls in Hainnan still needs further improvement, while Akoya Pearls in Hepu have already successfully becomes a main source to Japan----Japan hardly produces Akoya pearls smaller than 9mm these days, but rather choose to import from China.
Currently, you can find pearl jewelry made of all types of pearls in China, but only freshwater pearls and small Akoya pearls are from China. 96% of freshwater pearls sold in the world are from China, and those which are produced in Zhuji, in the Zhejiang Province, are of the highest quality. China also produces Akoya pearls smaller than 9mm, which are produced in Hepu. Tahiti pearls and South Sea pearls sold in China are imported from France and Australia.
Pearl jewelry sold in China is comparatively cheaper than in western countries because of the cheaper labor and capital costs in China. Also, China produces 96% of the freshwater pearls in the world, so there are no middleman costs in China. Maybe some people will ask why the sea pearl jewelry is also cheaper than the origin countries, such as Australia and France. The answer is that China, as a main jewelry manufacturer of pearl jewelry, can get very good wholesale prices, which is also helped by international free trade agreements and helps further to make it cheaper and easier.