Freshwater Pearls

Unlike traditional pearls found in ocean oysters, freshwater pearls are cultured in oysters that are found in ponds, lakes and rivers. They are often irregular in shape when compared to saltwater pearls and are not nearly as valuable as traditional pearls. Almost all of the freshwater pearls that are available today are produced in China. China makes up for more than 90 percent of all freshwater pearl production.

Just because they are lower in price than saltwater pearls however does not mean that freshwater pearls are not high quality. Sizes typically range from around 4 mm to over 10 mm and the value depends on the quality of the pearl. Some freshwater pearls are considered to be very valuable and sell for very high prices. Grading freshwater pearls is much different than that of saltwater pearls mostly because freshwater pearls vary greatly in color and shape. There are however seven factors that are typically used to grade freshwater pearls and to determine their overall value.

Luster and nacre are used to determine the value of a freshwater pearl. When they are cultivated, a piece of mantle is typically inserted. Many mussels grow pearls a second time even after they have been harvested. This means that freshwater pearls that are cultured do not contain a nucleus or at least have a very small one. Freshwater pearls must have high luster that is evenly distributed throughout the pearl in order to be considered a high quality pearl.

Surface quality is also checked to determine any pits, wrinkles, cavities, bumps or discolorations. These factors can lower the value of a freshwater pearl. Since freshwater pearls come in a variety of colors, the color is typically not a determining factor for value. Colors include lavender, orange, white, gray, pink and yellow. Freshwater pearls that are solver or pink in color are typically considered to be more valuable than those of other colors as long as the color is fairly uniform. Iridescence also increases the overall value of a freshwater pearl. Those that have natural colors are much more valuable than pearls that have treated colors.

Freshwater pearls are often treated in order to get various shapes and sizes. Those that have been treated are generally lower in value but can be much shinier and more luminescent than natural pearls. When choosing freshwater pearls you first need to determine the color that you prefer. Again, there are a variety of color choices and many are dyed in order to produce more brilliant albeit unnatural coloring. Freshwater pearls are used in a variety of jewelry making techniques to create beautiful earrings, rings, necklaces and other pieces. When choosing freshwater pearls that are set in jewelry you should check to ensure that the colors of the piece match. Although it may be next to impossible to find pearls that match perfectly, they should match with regards to color, shape, size and luster to create a uniform jewelry piece.

Freshwater pearls can be found in many shapes such as round or spherical, which are considered to be the most valuable. Those that are symmetrical are much more desirable than those that are not. Again, freshwater pearls are often much less expensive than saltwater pearls but can be fairly expensive depending on the grade and the overall size. When choosing freshwater pearls you should determine what you can afford and then choose a size based on your budget for the piece. Larger pearls are much more coveted simply because it takes longer for them to form into a larger size, particularly if they are round or spherical in shape. Be certain that you check the pearl for any flaws such as cracks, surface gaps and/or chips. This can lower the value of the pearl and simply make it less pleasing to the eye. Some flaws may also affect the pearl’s strength.

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