Almost all pearls sold today for the costume jewelry market are cultured pearls. Pearls that are cultured are a product of farmers helping nature and very different from cultured freshwater pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto, a Japanese inventor of the early 20th century, is best known for perfecting techniques used in pearl cultivation. The Japanese continue to produce pearls of excellence today.
Cultured pearls can be produced in either saltwater or freshwater mollusks. The Beadin’ Path & www.BeadinPath.com stocks freshwater pearls. The technique and results are almost identical. Pearl farmers introduce a shell bead into the oyster or mussel. The mollusk then naturally deposits layers of nacre around the bead. These layers build up over time to produce the pearl that the farmers then harvest. China was already on its way to fill that void with a limitless work force willing to work for less than a dollar a day. The need for hard currency in the country led to a boom that continues today. China produces large amounts of inexpensive pearls rivaling the quality of the classic Japanese pearl.
This same process occurs in nature when a foreign object gets pulled into the mollusk during feeding. This foreign object or parasite enters the mussel and cannot be expelled. To reduce irritation the mollusk will coat the intruder with the same secretion it uses to build its shell or ‘nacre’.
freshwater pearls come from freshwater mussels and are produced in China and the US. Initial commercial freshwater pearl crops appeared in the 1930’s. The most famous type of freshwater pearl was called the “Biwa” (bee-wah) which was produced in Japan’s largest freshwater lake. World War II interrupted the flow of Lake Biwa pearls, however, soon after the war pearls were being cultivated again in Japan. As a result, the pearl comeback in the early 1950s led to less expensive strands and just as beautiful colorful alternatives to the salt water version of years before. Because of pollution, production slowed in the early 1980’s and now production from the lake has stopped.
When referring to naturally colored pearls, the gorgeous array of tones that cultured freshwater pearls come in are dictated by the mother shell. White is the most common followed by pink. Other colors will depend on the type of mussel. In the last five years or so, pearls have greatly improved in quality. Often times you can purchase these Chinese cultured freshwater pearls of the Japanese quality salt-water pearls at 10 times less the price.
Posted by CNW pearl jewelry INC, cultured freshwater pearls