More than any other pearl type it is the fresh water pearls, which cover the widest range of colors and shapes. Earlier these pearls were of a lower quality and so served as an inexpensive alternative to the costlier akoya pearls. So, freshwater pearls were mostly used in jewelry that focused more on the designs rather than the value of the pearls. In 1990s, emerged a class of freshwater pearls that were round and lustrous, which rivaled the akoya pearls in both quality and value. Cultured pearls are formed when an irritant is inserted into the shell of a mollusk. In nature, this may take the form of sand, a chunk of rock, or some other organic material. The mollusk forms a layer of protective material called nacre over the foreign material so that it doesn’t irritate the organism. The resulting ball of luminous nacre is known as a pearl. Like saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls can come in a range of colors. The color of the pearl can also be further enhanced with bleaching and dyeing, allowing producers to make pearls in a range of colors available. Perfectly round freshwater pearls are extremely rare, and therefore highly prized. Most freshwater pearls are baroque pearls, meaning that they are irregularly shaped. Commonly, these pearls are simply more ovoid in shape, or take the form of tear drops. To know more go through the article given below.
What Are Freshwater Pearls?
- The traditional source of pearls is the saltwater mollusks, but freshwater mussels, which live in ponds, lakes and rivers, can also produce pearls.
- Since the 13th century China has harvested freshwater pearls, and it is now the leader in freshwater pearl production. The first recorded instance of pearl production in china dates to 2206 BC.
- Till the 19th century the United States was also a major source of natural freshwater pearls but over-harvesting and pollution significantly reduced the number of available pearl-forming mussels in the US.
- Freshwater pearls appear in a wide variety of shapes and colors, and they are less expensive than saltwater pearls because they are not as round as saltwater pearls, and they do not have the same sharp luster and shine as akoya pearls. This makes them very popular with younger people and designers.
- Freshwater pearls are more durable as they are of solid nacre. As such, they can withstand chipping and other natural degradation.
- Freshwater pearls are not bead-nucleated. The mollusks are nucleated by creating a small incision in the fleshy mantle tissue of a 6 to 12 month old mussel, then inserting a 3mm square piece of mantle tissue from a donor mussel.
- Upon insertion graft tissue is twisted slightly, rounding out the edges. This tissue acts as a catalyst in producing a pearl sac thus making the 'nucleation' actual 'activation'. Another reason can be that the tissue molds with the host to create a pearl sac.
- The nucleated mollusks are then returned to their freshwater environment where they are tended for 2-6 years. The resulting pearls are of solid nacre, but without a bead nucleus.
- The pearl industry shifted from the Cockscomb pearl mussel, (Cristaria plicata) to the Triangle shell, (Hyriopsis cumingii) in the middle 1990's which resulted in a tremendous jump in quality, as earlier the cockscomb resulted in low quality pearls.
- The quality was further increased when lower number of grafts was inserted. Throughout the last decade an average number of five grafts were inserted. The quality also received a further boost with mussel hybridization.