Freshwater Pearls from a Mussel
September 22, 2010
Freshwater pearls are cultured around the world, including in countries such as Japan and the USA. Over the last twenty years the Chinese have perfected the production of culturing pearls in freshwater mussels, which are farmed in lakes and streams.
Most freshwater pearls available today are produced in China and make really lovely pieces of jewellery. The best quality freshwater pearls sit comfortably alongside the finest Akoya, Tahitian and South Seas pearls and can also offer great value.
The triangular-shaped shell mussel Hyriopsis cumingii is used to produce up to 50 freshwater pearls in each mussel, depending on the size and quality desired. In contrast to saltwater pearl culturing, freshwater pearls generally need no nucleus, with the pearl only being produced by the mussel once a piece of nacre-producing tissue is inserted into the mussel to create the pearl sac.
The size of these cultured freshwater pearls can vary widely from tiny poppy seed pearls to more regular pearls between 6 and 12mm. Very recently developed grafting techniques have also introduced a nucleus to the mussel to culture even larger freshwater pearls.
The placed position of the nacre-producing tissue and the shape of a nucleus in the mussel can produce different shapes of pearls such as round, semi-round, oval, button, baroque, coin and drop shapes.
As well as being capable of producing consistently high quality pearls, freshwater mussels cleverly produce a dazzling rainbow of colours including shades of white, apricot, lavender and pink pearls.