As one of the world's most valuable gems, pearls are highly desired, symbolizing love, success, and happiness. In addition, pearls are emblems of modesty, chastity, and purity, offering a highly symbolic gem with vast significance for wearers around the world. With a high value and gorgeous luster, these unique stones stand in a class of their own.
Of all the gems, like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and even diamonds, pearls are the most eco-friendly of them all. Pearls are an organic product, straight out of the mollusk, offering a fully environmentally conscious alternative to other gems. The harvesting of pearls depends on a relatively stable environment and clear water, both of which are necessary to produce a uniquely beautiful gem with all the luster and color that nature can provide. These criteria cannot be influenced by human factors, creating a completely organic process.
With a proven history dating back to 1 B.C.E., pearl farming has a rich history across the human tradition. One of the earliest communities known for pearl farming was the ancient Romans, offering some of the first demonstrated opportunities for lovers of all things pearl. Over the ages, only the royalty and wealthy were allowed to wear pearls, as they were far too expensive for anyone else to afford. However, as large quantities of freshwater pearls have been carefully harvested every year, high quality pearl jewelry has finally become more affordable to the general public.
Different from South Sea pearls, which are cultured in oysters in saltwater basins, freshwater pearls are cultured in mussels or oysters in rivers, lakes, or ponds across the country. In fact, nearly 96% of freshwater pearls today are produced by Chinese pearl farms. Boasting attractive prices, unique shapes, and a wide range of colors, freshwater pearls are widely used in designer jewelry.
Despite a lower price point than saltwater pearls, this does not necessarily mean that these pearls are a lower quality. In fact, many high quality freshwater pearls are very valuable. As the development of pearl treatment technology progresses, freshwater pearls have begun to offer a rainbow of colors in various shapes, bringing more inspiration to the fashion industry, most notably to those who rely on pearls. The most often used treatments are bleaching, dyeing, or irradiation, creating a spectrum of colors and options for virtually any application.
When shopping freshwater pearl jewelry, the following six factors are helpful for you to assess their overall value:
Luster and Nacre
When cultivating freshwater pearls, shell mantle tissue is inserted into the host mussel instead of a bead nucleus. After the first harvest, mussels can spontaneously grow pearls a second time, offering a gorgeous stone at a better price. Hence, cultured freshwater pearls either do not have nucleus or have a very small nucleus. This means that freshwater pearls consist of very thick nacre, making them denser and more durable. Only those freshwater pearls with consistently high luster are considered to be high value.
Surface quality refers to blemishes, such as discolorations, pits, bumps, wrinkles, and cavities, that can decrease the value of pearls. Despite this, many pearls with these qualities can be very beautiful, fetching a moderate price at market.
Freshwater pearls come in a wide variety of natural body colors, like white, pink, orange, gold, lavender, and silver. When determining what color of pearl to buy, keep these key factors in mind:
- A pearl's color doesn't affect the price of freshwater pearls as much as it does that of saltwater pearls.
- Pink or silver overtones can increase the value of freshwater pearls
- Iridescence can increase the value, too
- Natural color pearls are more valued than treated pearls.
By inserting different shapes of nuclei, unique shapes of freshwater pearls can be harvested, creating a wide variation for interested buyers. Symmetry and round shapes are of higher value than baroque, but there are appropriate shapes in store for everyone. Because of recent strides in cultivation technology, we've been able to create star shaped and even heart shaped pearls, offering completely beautiful and wholly organic options for pearl lovers from all walks of life.
The size of freshwater pearls is not as important a price factor as is luster and surface quality, but the rule of "the larger, the more valuable" still applies. Currently, freshwater pearls are available in sizes from 4mm to over 20mm, creating a wide range of acceptable options for interested consumers.