Fresh water pearls make up more than 90% of today’s world wide pearl market, and have never been so large or so widely accessible in human history. Although fresh water pearls have been found all over the world, the most notable cultivation have been in the US, Japan and China. Dependent on the shell they are harvested from the natural colors can vary wildly from white, cream, through golden, pink, lavender and sometimes soft blue. Beyond the natural colors, Chinese fresh water pearls are available in a dizzying array of non-natural dyed and treated colors.

Pearl cultivating operations in Lake Biwa Japan began in the 1920′s and enjoyed a boom of production before dying out in the 1980′s due to polluted waters. The introduction of cultured Japanese fresh water pearls in unusual shapes, gave rise to the term “Biwa” which is now commonly used to describe the shape of a pearl. Alongside Lake Biwa was the fresh water pearl production at Lake Kasumi Ga Ura Japan, which despite a nearly two decade interruption in production is now the ONLY fresh water pearl production in Japan.  Many pearl dealers now refer to Chinese fresh water ripple pearls as “Chinese Kasumi”, or even simply “Kasumi” pearls.

To date, there are three people employed in the fresh water pearl production in Japan. The pearls they produce are very dear and lovingly farmed in accordance with the wonders of nature. 

Fresh water pearl production in China began in the 1970′s although China had been creating may be pearls on the inside of fresh water pearl mussels for centuries. 

Fresh water pearls produced in China were very baroque in shape, earning the title “rice crispies”. For the most part Chinese fresh water pearls are grown by using an implantation of mantle tissue and often dozens of pearls are harvested from the same shell. In recent years China has started to produce rather large bead nucleated round and baroque pearls which require a much more.


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