Unlike cultured freshwater pearls, natural freshwater pearls of excellent quality are extremely difficult to find or create. That's because everything is left to nature. As such, maybe it's not too hard to understand why freshwater pearls, in spite of its imperfections, are still incredibly more expensive than the best cultured pearls.
How Natural Freshwater Pearls Are Made
The process of making natural freshwater pearls is exactly the same with the process of making natural seawater pearls. Firstly, a foreign object finds its way inside the mussel or oyster. It can be anything from a parasite to a tiny pebble. If the oyster is not able to take it out of its system, it will begin to feel irritated. To reduce its discomfort, it will start secreting nacre – which is the stuff that pearls are made of.
How Cultured Freshwater Pearls Are Made
Pearl divers or makers will create a small opening in the oyster's shells in order to insert mantle tissue from other oysters. The insertion will cause the freshwater oyster to start producing nacre. Pearl manufacturers can guarantee the output or quality of their products by taking control of factors like water temperature, the oyster's health, and so forth.
History of Freshwater Pearls
Japan used to be the dominant figure in the cultured pearl industry. Having met success in their attempts in culturing pearls from saltwater mussels, they decided to conduct the same experiments with freshwater mussels from Lake Biwa. Their attempt was successful as well, and people were pleased to see new colors, colors that were never produced in saltwater pearls. As such, cultured freshwater pearls of Japan became so popular that all cultured freshwater pearls were referred to as Biwas in those days regardless of their origin.
Unfortunately, pollution caused great damage to Biwa cultured pearl production, and it was during this time that a new dominant figure emerged in the market: China. The country was blessed with numerous natural resources that the space-challenged Japan did not have: acres and acres of open land, innumerable lakes and other water bodies, and thousands and thousands of available human resources willing to work for less than minimum wages.
Although the first few experiments of China in cultured freshwater pearl production were pretty much unsuccessful and understandably unappealing to the public, China was soon unable to master the necessary techniques to create pearls that could not only surpass the quality of the best pearls produced by Japan but were also sold cheaper compared to other pearls. Chinese cultured freshwater pearls also came in a variety of colors, some of which Japanese cultured freshwater pearl makers were unable to reproduce.
How to Take Care of Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater pearls, whether they're natural or cultured, possess a soft surface which can easily be scratched or damaged. As such, it's imperative that you keep your pearl jewelry separate from other jewelries. It's also better to place them inside a pouch rather than a jewelry box because the latter's surface can also cause nicks to appear in pearl jewelry.
The acidity level of a woman's skin may affect the wearing life of pearl jewelry. If a pearl necklace is constantly being worn by a woman with a particularly high level of acidity in her skin, the acidity will gradually see into the pearl, affecting its luster and shape. To prevent this from happening too soon, you should always polish your pearls with a non-abrasive cloth after taking them off.
Be careful about exposing pearl jewelry to chemicals. Spraying perfume while you're wearing your pearl necklace can cause considering damage to them over time. You must also avoid spilling any liquid on them, especially when it has rather strong properties such as lemon and vinegar.
Heat can also cause damage to pearl jewelry. If you persist in wearing your pearl jewelry in hot and humid weather, the climate can change the color of your pearls or worse, cause cracks to appear on the surface. Dry unmoving air is also bad for your pearls.
Make sure that you are using only jewelry cleaners specifically intended for pearl cleaning and nothing else. You can not steam-clean pearls as well. If you wish to reserve the luster of your pearls, you can use a drop of olive oil on them.
Pearl jewelry is amazing to possess not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the amount of hard work put into them. Hard work by humans and nature combined.