Freshwater pearls are a sweet, smaller, and often more irregularly shaped type of pearl that can be grown in a number of different species of freshwater mussels.
A Freshwater pearl is produced when twenty or more tiny tissue grafts are implanted into the thick mantle of a living mussel. Depending on the species, different results will be produced. These outcomes can range from odd, crinkly-surfaced pearls, with a mid-level luster, in about the size of crisped rice. From the point when the injections are made, it takes between 2 and 6 years to produce the pearls, with each mussel producing up to 50 pearls.
Typically, though, freshwater pearls will form with a lower amount of organic material in their nacre than those which are created as a result of marine pearl oysters. This lacking in organic material allows the freshwater pearls to have a unique, glassy luster.
For those who love the look of pearls, but don’t enjoy the price tag, Freshwater pearls are the least expensive, while remaining attractive. They are especially desirable for rope freshwater pearl necklaces made of several strands which are twisted about each other or long opera-length strands.
Another advantage of Freshwater pearls is their innate durability, which naturally resists chipping, degeneration, and wear.
Freshwater pearls have been harvested in China for thousands of years. In fact, there is record of Chinese Freshwater pearl harvests dating back as far as 2206 BC. Since the discovery of the New World, the United States have also become a substantial source of Freshwater pearls, especially throughout the 19th century, when over-harvesting, and choking pollution caused the number of pearl-forming mussels to take a significant dive.
More recently, the Chinese have brought freshwater pearl farming to all new levels, creating pearls of much higher quality, making them quite comparable – in fact, almost indistinguishable – from their saltwater cousins. This is another favorable breakthrough for those who wish for beauty without the price tag, as it provides jewelry shoppers with a much more affordable alternative to the expensive saltwater pearls, but with little-to-no drop in quality or appearance. Freshwater pearl earrings have become very popular since the new farming technology was introduced.
The Japanese have also had a distinguished freshwater pearl farming history. In fact, Lake Biwa was once recognized worldwide for its high quality freshwater pearl production. However, by the time the 1970s hit, the Japanese had to bring pearl production to a complete stop, as Lake Biwa reached terrifying levels of pollution. The Japanese are now taking new steps to restart their freshwater pearl cultivation industry, and have been successful at producing beautifully large and unique pearls. However, due to the high prices of the Japanese freshwater pearls, they have remained a niche market exclusively for collectors.