What is a Freshwater Pearl
Gorgeous freshwater pearls are very popular for pearl jewellery thanks to their availability and extensive range of colours and sizes. But what is a freshwater pearl vs a cultured pearl? Pearls are called freshwater when they are grown in fresh water rivers and lakes, and are most commonly formed in mussels.
How are Freshwater Pearls grown?
Freshwater pearl jewellery is usually made from pearls that are grown or cultured by tissue grafting techniques or nucleation. Mussels are opened a tiny amount by a technician who inserts a very small piece of tissue or bead. The mussel produces nacre (or pearl) to cover over the irritant. Over time, more and more layers of nacre covers the nucleus, producing a lustrous pearl. This process can also occur naturally when a tiny bit of grit or sand enters the mussel but naturally formed freshwater pearls are very rare and very rarely round, however it is possible to culture a nearly round pearl by inserting a round bead.
Cultured freshwater pearls usually take 2-7 years to grow and one mussel can produce up to 30 pearls! Good freshwater pearls are virtually all nacre which means they have a beautiful lustre and are great value. They also wear very well and can be turned into versatile pearl bracelets, necklaces and earrings for children and adults.
Natural freshwater pearl colours include white, pink, lavender, mauve and apricot. White is the most traditionally recognised pearl colour, followed closely in popularity by pink!
Freshwater pearls can also be dyed or treated to form black, purple, blue, gold, green or grey pearls.
What size and shape are Freshwater Pearls?
There are many different shapes and styles including near round (as close to round as possible), oval, button (flat), drop, baroque, keshi, corn, rice, potato and biwa. Freshwater pearls can range in size from tiny little seed pearls of a millimetre all the way up to 15mm in very special cases.
Where do Freshwater Pearls come from?
Most freshwater cultured pearls are grown in Japan, China and America. Producing beautiful freshwater pearls requires an environment free of pollution or disease. Freshwater pearls are shipped all around the world and used in creating beautiful pearl jewellery.
Choosing the right Freshwater Pearl
As with all jewellery, the best choice is the one that appeals most to the wearer! Some people prefer fine, pretty, regular pieces, others like big and bold! Fortunately with pearls, there is something to please everyone. Beautiful pearls are often hand-knotted into place to ensure pearls stay where they should. Knotted pearl jewellery is most often used for expensive, precious pearls, or for children's pearl jewellery so that in the unlikely event of a break, only one or two pearls may be lost.
These days, many contemporary bracelets and necklaces are also available on stretch elastic or leather to create a more modern, and affordable piece of pearl jewellery.
Pearls are a gift from nature and it is important that they are worn and treated with care. They have been formed over many years and with the correct pearl care and love, your pearls will be a timeless keepsake that will be worn and treasured for many years too.
24 February 2017
29 June 2019