Learn About Pearls
Pure and elegant, pearls have long been the symbol of purity, class and feminine charm.
And today they are a fixture in the modern woman's wardrobe.
Pearls are among the oldest and most universal of all gems. They are the oldest jewels known to man, and the only gem made by a living animal. A pearl is one of the few gemstones that requires no cutting or polishing. Their beauty is evident from the moment they are removed from the shell.
In many countries pearls were worn as a declaration of wealth and power, and were used as a trinket to bring good fortune, to ward off evil spirits and to cure illnesses.
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Today's Freshwater Pearls --- a Worthy Opponent of Saltwater Pearls
When you think of Freshwater pearls, what comes to mind? Do you envision a small, irregular shape?
That was pretty much the case years ago. For a long time, Freshwater pearl farms only produced low quality pearls, while Saltwater pearls were more round and of better quality.
But today, the Chinese have made advances in their cultivating methods that have allowed them to match the quality of Saltwater pearls. Many improvements have been seen in the cultivation and processing techniques of Freshwater pearls. With modern freshwater cultivation methods, Freshwater pearls today are of excellent quality - with outstanding body, shape, and luster which can be on equal footing with that of Saltwater Akoya pearls. Therefore, the least expensive cultured Freshwater pearl product on the market today rivals the quality of the most expensive natural pearls. This value is obvious to consumers wanting Chinese Freshwater bargains.
The once inferior Freshwater pearls are steadily becoming a strong opponent of Saltwater pearls.
Cultured Freshwater pearls are farmed in lakes, ponds and are grown in mussels. The Freshwater pearl cultivating technique usually produces twenty or more pearls in one oyster. Recent research shows a Freshwater mollusk can create as many as 50 pearls at a time.
Saltwater Cultured Pearls are farmed in saltwater. The term "Akoya" is used internationally to signify Saltwater Pearls from Japan. Here's how it works: the Akoya mollusk is implanted with a round bead along with a small piece of mantle tissue which allows nacre to envelop around the bead. The number of beads that can be inserted into the mollusk. This limited creation makes Saltwater Pearls much more expensive than Freshwater pearls.
Freshwater pearls have an added attraction since they come in a wide range of colors as compared to Saltwater pearls. By adding very small quantities of metals to the water on a pearl farm, the colors of Freshwater pearls can be very unique, something not usually seen in Saltwater pearls.
Freshwater pearls can be found in almost any shape that you can imagine: round, drop, rice, button, potato, oval, semi-round, baroque, rectangle coin, heart-shape, and Mother-of-Pearl. Because of its popularity, the round shape is usually the most expensive, but as always, personal preference dictates the shape each customer will find most beautiful. Baroque pearls are favored by many people because of their irregular and unique shape. In fact, Baroque shapes, like color variety, offer beaders more options, despite the fact that farmers aim for smooth round cultured pearls.
Japanese Akoya pearls take a shorter period of time - less than 2 years. The cultivation period for Chinese Freshwater pearls in the 1980s was 18 to 24 months. This short time resulted in small sizes and low quality.
Today, Chinese pearl farms have changed their way of cultivating pearls to let their mussels stay in the water for a much longer time. Freshwater pearls take from three years to as many as five to six years before they are ready for harvest. Long cultivation periods have led to Freshwater pearls that are much bigger in size and higher in quality.
New farming techniques and longer cultivation periods have increased the size of Freshwater pearls. Large Freshwater pearls in the range of 9 to 14mm are now more common, equivalent to South Sea pearls in size, yet more aggressively priced.
The shape, surface and luster of today's Freshwater pearls have already surpassed the original Biwa quality. As testimony to China's achievement, good Freshwater pearls are now round enough, clean and lustrous enough to pass as Japanese Akoya and South Sea pearls.
To sum up, Freshwater pearl farmers have improved their cultivation methods and processing techniques. These farmers are creating a pearl that is much less expensive, yet its quality rivals that of the more expensive Saltwater pearls. In that way, Akoya pearls and their status as the pearl of choice has been significantly challenged by the outstanding quality of Freshwater pearls. The new Freshwater pearls that are now produced are clearly equal in quality to Akoya pearls but at a fraction of the Akoya price. When Freshwater pearls are round, they are magnificent - the nacre is full, the molecular structure of the nacre is tightly bound and the luster is spectacular.