About Freshwater Cultured Pearls
These pearls are gathered from freshwater lake and river mollusks. Most Freshwater pearls come from China and they can be mostly round to off-round, or rice-shaped to baroque. They look similar to Akoya pearls, but are the perfect gift when on a budget. They might be slightly less symmetrical, smaller, or not as easily matched, but these minor differences provide a major value for the price.
Pearls are produced naturally in the body of salt and freshwater mollusks, such as oysters and mussels. When these animals sense an irritant, such as a grain of sand, they produce a soft coating of calcium carbonate substance around it. The result is a pearl. Because perfectly round, naturally produced pearls are so rare, a process known as cultivation was developed by Kokichi Mikimoto in the early 1900s. A small bead of polished shell, the nucleus, is used as an irritant and delicately inserted into the mantle of a mollusk. It takes approximately 20-24 months of intensive husbandry to cultivate a saltwater pearl and somewhat less time to cultivate freshwater pearls. The harvest usually takes place during the months of June and September.
Mollusks produce pearls in a variety of colors, accommodating most personal preferences and budgets. The general color of a pearl is also known as the body color. Pearls typically range from white, cream, and yellow to pink, silver, or black. An overtone of secondary color is sometimes seen. For instance, a pearl may appear to be white, but upon closer inspection a rosy hue is detected. The body color would then be termed white-rosé. Color variation does not affect the quality of the pearl, though it should be noted that color matching is important when choosing pearls for some necklaces, earrings, or bracelets. In fashion jewelry, pearls can sometimes be dyed to achieve the desired color, which should be mentioned in the product description or specifications.
The appealing, deep shine of a pearl is often what defines its beauty. This shine is produced by multiple layers of semi-opaque calcium carbonate crystals, called nacre. The nacre reflects light on the surface of the pearl, producing brilliance and sheen. Lustre is an integral feature in determining the quality of a pearl. Large pearls have a thicker nacre and, therefore, a higher lustre. When comparing a small Freshwater pearl to a large South Sea pearl, the difference is clearly visible to the untrained eye and should be considered when purchasing pearls.
While pearls come in many different shapes, the rarest and highest-quality are round. Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea oysters tend to produce the roundest pearls, while those of Freshwater mollusks can be oval to slightly off-round. When considering a pearl purchase, whether it be a necklace, bracelet, or earrings, look for consistency in the shapes of the pearls. Many of the less symmetrical shapes are used in stylish jewelry which can be quite beautiful: the drop pearl’s shape lends well to earrings, and the baroque pearl features irregular shapes that work well as necklace accents. In addition, a half sphere pearl called a “mabe” is often used in earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.
An oyster’s particular type and size has a direct effect on how large the pearl it produces will be, and pearls do come in a wide range of sizes. Round pearls are measured according to their diameter, while baroque pearls are measured by their length and width. A pearl’s size does not necessarily affect its quality, but it does affect its price. Large, round pearls are rare and their lustre is usually high–this beautiful combination of traits is often reflected in the cost of such pearls.