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Freshwater Pearls: Everything You Need to Know

Freshwater pearls are one of the ways pearl gemstones are made. A popular staple in modern jewelry they boast a timeless shimmer. Our guide details how freshwater pearls are formed, the history of the gems, and how to care for yours.

Table of Contents:

  • What Are Freshwater Pearls?
  • The History of Pearls
  • Where Do Freshwater Pearls Come From?
  • What is a Cultured Freshwater Pearl?
  • Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearls
  • Discover Pearl Jewelry
  • Caring for Pearl Jewelry

What Are Freshwater Pearls?

Freshwater pearls are as the name suggests, pearls which form in freshwater environments. Freshwater makes up around 3% of all the world's water, and is essentially water that isn't salty - think lakes, rivers, glaciers and more. Pearls that form in mollusks in these environments are called freshwater pearls.

Freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced types of pearls, and are a favorite with jewelry designers and collectors alike. The unique shapes and colors they produce make them a dazzling addition to any jewelry box.

The History of Pearls

It is no secret that pearl jewelry has been loved for generations. Pearls have been used as gifts and in jewelry by ancient Chinese royalty, the Romans, and have even been found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess. Pearls became more widely available when a way of creating them was discovered in 1893. Since then, saltwater and freshwater pearls have been widely included in jewelry and fashion, for everyone to enjoy.

Pearls are famously the shimmering birthstone for those born in June and hold meanings ranging from purity, humility and innocence. The classic gemstone stands out on its own, but also complements other stones and colors. This versatile gem can be found in multiple colors, and even ones which look to be white glimmer a rainbow effect in certain lights.

Where Do Freshwater Pearls Come From?

Freshwater pearls come from mollusks (animals such as an oyster, mussel, or clam) in freshwater environments. Pearls form when an irritant works its way into a particular species of these mollusks. The mollusks then secretes a liquid around the irritant, which could be a grain of sand. Over many years, layers of this liquid coating are deposited on the irritant, and eventually a pearl is formed.

These gemstones can form naturally in water environments, as well as be made intentionally in a more controlled environment. Natural pearls are more rare, and often are more valuable than cultured pearls.

What is a Cultured Freshwater Pearl?

Cultured freshwater pearls are still genuine pearls, but they are formed with the help of humans. In curated pearls, the irritant is intentionally placed in the mollusk. In pearl farming, multiple irritants are placed in the mollusk at a time, so many pearls can be harvested simultaneously. It is common for upwards of 24 pearls to be harvested from a single mollusk! The more rare the precious gemstone, the more expensive it can be. Natural freshwater pearls are more rare, so may have a higher price tag, meaning not everyone can get to experience the beauty and joy of adorning pearls.

Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearls

As we now know, freshwater pearls form in lakes, rivers, and other non-salted water. Over 90% of freshwater pearls are known as baroque pearls. This means they have an irregular shape, the most abundant type. This irregular shape is what makes them so beautifully unique and individually special.

Saltwater pearls, as you would expect, are formed in the sea and other salted water. Saltwater pearls develop inside oysters from the ocean, and need a salty environment to form. Unlike the baroque shape, cultured saltwater pearls are more smooth and round. They may feature a more recognisable perfect ball shape. Natural saltwater pearls can have the irregular shapes of baroque pearls. Some of the most sought after saltwater baroque pearls are those which come from the South Sea. This includes places such as Tahiti, and they are sought after due to them being some of the larger sizes available.

Keshi pearls are a type of pearl featuring little anomalies which gives them a unique shape. Curated freshwater keshi pearls look similar to naturally occurring gems and are the by-product of the cultivation process. They are known for their small size and irregular shape due to their lack of nuclei. We use keshi pearls in our Mother of Pearl collection, designed to represent the unique people who will wear them.

Discover Pearl Jewelry

Freshwater pearls are found in one of a kind shapes, making them ideal for unique and beautiful jewelry. Their lustrous elegance means our pearl jewelry is sure to be the centerpiece of every outfit. Find a stunning range of culture freshwater baroque pearls that offer a mesmerizing rainbow luster. Pair them with your gold jewelry favorites or combine with sterling silver jewelry for an eclectic style suited to everyone.

These freshwater pearls pair beautifully as pendants dangling from stunning chains. Thanks to their irregular silhouettes, these gems are as eye catching and individual as those who adorn them. A pendant showcasing the breathtaking shimmer of pearls is sure to draw the eye and be the center of attention. With both Keshi and BIWA freshwater pearls adorning necklaces and bracelets, there's a pearl to suit everyone's style.

Our cultured freshwater pearls are sourced in China by our suppliers who, like us, are members of the Responsible Jewelry Council. Our pearls take approximately 2-3 years to grow before they're carefully harvested. Each is unique in shape, size, character and luster - all just a part of our quality materials promise.

Caring for Pearl Jewelry

An important part of pearl jewelry is caring for your semi-precious gemstones so they keep their wonderful shine. The nacre of pearls is natural, meaning it can lose its luster over time if not looked for. We recommended adorning your freshwater pearls after you've applied makeup, and after you've spritzed yourself with perfume. Store them in soft pouches or lined jewelry boxes to ensure they're cushioned when you aren't wearing them.

The same care applies to your metal pieces. Cleaning gold jewelry is essential to keep your collection looking its best. You can also clean silver jewelry to ensure it stays looking brand new. That way, you'll never feel like your jewelry is going out of style, because it always feels like a new addition to your ensemble.

Discover Sustainable Jewelry with Monica Vinader

We design contemporary jewelry combined with sustainability. Using recycled metals and ethical stones, our rings, earrings, and diamond jewelry provide endless style inspiration.

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