Freshwater Pearls 101: Everything You Need to Know

Fresh Pearls

Highly revered for their natural radiance and elegance, pearls are a true gift of nature. Among the various types of pearls is the freshwater pearl, which is said to symbolize love, purity, and harmony. Ideal for any occasion, these timeless, natural gems add that classy finishing touch. Learn how these pearls are formed, their distinct characteristics, where to find them, and how to properly care for them.

How Freshwater Pearls Are Formed

Typically sourced from freshwater lakes in China, these pearls begin their journey as natural gems inside various species of freshwater mollusks, including mussels and clams.

The process of pearl formation occurs when an irritant, such as sand or a tiny pebble, enters the mollusk's soft tissues. The mollusk then secretes layers of nacre as a response to the irritant. This process gradually coats the irritant, forming a lustrous pearl over time.

Freshwater Pearls

Characteristics of Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are celebrated for their diverse range of shapes, sizes, and colors, making each pearl a unique work of nature’s art. Here are the characteristics of freshwater pearls:

  • Shape

Freshwater pearls can surprisingly come in various shapes, such as round, oval, teardrop, button, and baroque. Baroque pearls are characterized by their non-spherical shape; while unconventional, these pearls are just as elegant and make a bold fashion statement.

  • Size

Freshwater pearls can range from small seed pearls (1-2mm) to larger ones (up to 15mm). Due to a mollusk's ability to produce numerous pearls, it is common to find a strand of different-sized freshwater pearls.

  • Color

Although white is a freshwater pearl's most common color, you can also find these in shades of cream, pink, lavender, peach, or darker tones like black and peacock.

Pearl Comparison: Freshwater Pearls vs South Sea Pearls

Freshwater pearls come from mollusks in rivers and lakes, while South Sea pearls come from oysters in the South Pacific and the Philippines. Freshwater pearls are smaller, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and are a more affordable option, whereas South Sea pearls are larger, mostly round-shaped, and can be recognized for their white, cream, or gold hues.

Freshwater Pearls

How to Find and Buy Freshwater Pearls

When purchasing freshwater pearls, it is essential to ensure their authenticity and quality. Here’s a quick guide on how to find and buy freshwater pearls:

Luster and Surface Quality

Examine pearls for their luster—a quality often described as a pearl's radiance or sheen. High-quality freshwater pearls typically have a bright, mirror-like shine; the more significant the luster, the more valuable the pearl. After observing the luster, be sure to inspect the pearl's surface for any unwanted imperfections.

Shape and Size

Consider what shape and size you like best. Pearls come in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, and teardrop. Round pearls are classic, although these tend to be rarer and more expensive.

Think about how small or big you want your pearls to be. Larger pearls can be more valuable and are an easy way to glam up your look, while smaller ones might be more ideal for daily use. Irregularly shaped pearls are more unique and dramatic.

Trusted Sellers

 Ensure you are purchasing from a reputable seller. An easy way to tell if a pearl is natural is by examining its surface quality—a faux pearl is likely to be very smooth, with no ridges or irregularities, while authentic pearls usually have minor imperfections. 

How To Maintain Your Freshwater Pearl Jewelry

Cleaning Freshwater Pearls

With proper pearl jewelry care, you can preserve your pearls’ luster and help them last a lifetime. Here are some simple steps to ensure the longevity of your pearls:

Wear them often

Contrary to popular belief, pearls actually benefit from being worn regularly! The natural oils from your skin keep them moisturized and enhance luster. Let your pearls be the last thing you put on, to keep them safe from make-up, hairspray, cologne, and perfume.

Keep them clean

After wearing your freshwater pearl jewelry, gently wipe them with a soft, damp cloth. This helps remove any dirt, oils, or sweat that may have accumulated on the surface. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as these can damage the delicate nacre.

Store them separately

To prevent damage, store your freshwater pearl jewelry separately from others. Consider using a soft pouch or wrapping them in cloth to protect them from abrasions.

Avoid exposure to extreme conditions

Keep your pearls away from direct sunlight and high temperatures. Exposure to excessive heat or cold can cause pearls to become dehydrated or crack.

Get professional cleaning

If your pearls lose their luster, take them to a professional jeweler who specializes in cleaning pearls to restore their natural sheen.

Kultura's Freshwater Pearls Collection

Freshwater pearls are a Filipina jewelry staple. At Kultura, we carry a diverse collection of freshwater pearls, from necklaces to bracelets and earrings, with various styles, colors, and shapes to suit anyone's personal taste.

Find your perfect pearls at a Kultura store near you, or purchase them online. Send us a message to shop. Our personal shoppers will gladly assist you:

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