Pearls have been tied to Chinese history for thousands of years and were reserved for royalty. China is now the premier producer of freshwater pearls as well as a leading consumer. The pearl industry in China began to takeoff in the 1990s as more farmers began to culture a cheaper alternative to Japanese Akoya Pearls. Freshwater pearls are similar to their Japanese counterpart, but are a fraction of the cost. Freshwater pearls usually lack the amazing luster of akoya pearls and are less round, but have steadily increased in quality overtime as the demand for high quality gems grows. You can also learn what gives these gorgeous pearls value and how we grade freshwater pearls.
Over 95% of freshwater pearls produced in the world today derrive from China. There are numerous cities throughout China that produce pearls, but none bigger than Zhuji.
Freshwater pearls are grow in mussels rather than oysters, unlike its sea water counterparts. The mussel specie is known as Hyriopsis Cumingi, or sometimes called the triangle shell. They are capabable or producing over 30 pearls at one time. However, producing fewer pearls at a time results in higher quality pearls with better lusters. Freshwater pearls are cultured by implanting mantle tissue from a donor mussel. Freshwater pearls; however, do not require a bead to be implanted as saltwater pearls require. This results in Freshwater pearls containing only nacre. After 2 or more years the mussels will finally be opened and a pearl will be revealed.
Freshwater pearls are often much more affordable due to lower labor costs, the ability to produce the multiple pearls at a time, and the overall luster not quite acheiving the same levels as sea pearls
Freshwater pearls come in a large array of sizes. colors, and shapes. Sizes range from 2mm to 12mm for basic freshwater pearls and can be as large as 16mm when nucleated with a bead,
Freshwater pearls come in a large array of colors, white being the most popular: White, Cream, Peach, Pink, and Purple
Freshwater pearls also come in unqiue metallic colors which are extremely rare and extremely beautiful, such as: Metallic White, Champagne, Pink, Watermelon, Blue/Green, Purple.
These unique colors are usually combined with a secondary color called a color modifier or overtone. The common overtones for white pearls are pink and green. In very rare occasions freshwater pearls will display both pink and green overtones. This is normally a characteristic only Akoya Pearls have.
Edison pearls are freshwater pearls cultured with techniques similar to sea water pearls. The results are amazing colors and razor sharp luster. Similar colors can be found in metallic freshwater pearls, but are extremely rare.
Edison pearls tend to be larger than freshwater pearls, usually ranging from 10mm to 16mm. This allows the pearl sizes to compare to South Sea Pearls. Due to the rare colors, size and luster these pearls command prices similar to Tahitian Black Pearls and South Sea Pearls.