Continuing my journey gathering information on pearls, my children’s passion and chosen pursuit and, vicariously, mine, it surprised me that Scotland was a major freshwater pearl producer in medieval times. The Holarctic freshwater pearl mussel was the mainstay of the pearl jewelry industry in the Middle Ages. The species is now endangered.

Travel across oceans to Japan, the country that pioneered the cultivation of whole freshwater pearls, using the Biwa pearly mussel (Hyriopsis schlegeli). The industry is virtually non-existent in Japan these days. The United States is noted for being the only country outside Asia to produce freshwater pearls, on a farm in Tennessee, which is now merely a tourist attraction.

Where, then, do freshwater pearls come from today? Drumroll and fanfare – primarily from the People’s Republic of China. It is the major commercial producer of freshwater pearls, using the triangle shell mussel (Hyriopsis cumingii) and other hybrids. If you were in the pearl industry, you would buy the freshwater pearls in their shells, then have them delivered to a first-stage factory to be cleaned and sorted according to size. They would then be sent to a processing factory, where the pearls would undergo maeshori, a warm and cold chemical bath, then bleached. Intensely colored pearls skip the bleaching or dyeing process.

The spa and beautification treatment continues, with the pearls being drilled, then polished with a concoction of cornmeal and wax. They are then matched in multiple strands called hanks, ready to be fashioned into the alluring pieces of freshwater pearl jewelry as seen at Pacific Pearls.

The Bua Bay Collection of freshwater pearl jewelry is a case in point. Classic, elegant, and in an array of colors to suit every woman’s mood and fancy. From our Tara Island Collection are the Celeste Diamond Encrusted Freshwater Pearl Earrings, and the Double Strand Necklaces in an assortment of mesmerizing colors, among them Malbec Black Wine and Tuscan Gold.

Freshwater Pearls – what’s not to love!