Friday, March 11, 2011

Freshwater Pearls

Cultured freshwater pearls give us an amazing variety of colors and shapes.



Most freshwater pearls come from the triangular hyriopsis cumingi mussel native to China. The vast majority of freshwater pearls are cultured in China. A modest number are farmed in Japan's Lake Biwa and a small pearl farm also operates in the Tennessee River in the United States.



These freshwater mussels are amazing little pearl factories. They can be implanted with up to 40 nuclei! Sometimes they will accept a second nucleation. After implantation, they are left to do their thing for two to three years before harvesting. Pearls range from 2mm to 13mm with the average size of 6mm to 10mm. A very small amount, only 2%, are spherical.



In 2004, China produced 10 times the amount of cultured freshwater pearls than all the other pearl producers, salt and freshwater, combined. Because of their low price and abundance, they often come dyed in a wild variety colors and nucleated in many interesting shapes.



In the beginning, most of the Chinese goods were the highly textured rice shape. From the 1970's to the 1990's shape and surface quality improved. The market now offers round and near round cultured pearls of very high quality at a very reasonable price point.

13 comments:

AMDesignsbyAngela said...

This pearl series has been very informative...thanks, Andrea!

mcstoneworks said...

Thanks for another great pearly post, Andrea. I didn't know Tennessee had a pearl farm.

Carole said...

Wow, I had no idea there was a pearl farm in Tennessee. I hope the mussels don't get too "irritated" with all those nuclei in them.

Bonnie said...

Thanks Andrea. I have enjoyed your pearl series very much.

MmeMagpie said...

I visited the Tennessee pearl farm in 2008. I hope I can find the pictures. I think I even know where my pearl is :)

BeadSire said...

I have enjoyed following this series on pearls, its been very interesting

Alegria Designs said...

Thanks, these articles have been very interesting!

Cat said...

Thanks for another installment of your lecture series! :-D

galadryl said...

Great post and theme. Thanks for all the info and interesting pictures.

Beadorigami said...

Love this whole pearl series!

Rita alias alatvian said...

Thank you for the post!
Love pearls!

DawninCal said...

Andrea, your pearl series has been so interesting. I think this one is my favorite to date.

I didn't know there was a pearl farm in TN either!

Jeanne/J3Jewelry said...

Oh Andrea you got me feeling sorry for the clams with that one picture of it wide open and all the bumps (pearls) in it. Does it hurt them? Oh noes, I can't "go there" I love pearls too much!!!