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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Default What is a freshwater pearl and is it valuable?

    Freshwater pearls differ in many ways from their saltwater cousins. While Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls are cultured in Saltwater oysters such as the Akoya (pinctada Fucata), the Black-Lipped Oyster (pinctada Margaritifera), and the Golden-lipped Oyster (pinctada Maxima), freshwater pearls are most commonly cultured in freshwater mollusks such as the Triangle Shell.

    When pearls are cultured in saltwater oysters a nucleus is inserted into the gonad, or ****** organ of the oyster. A small piece of mantle tissue is then inserted along side this nucleus. This piece of mantle tissue produces the pearl sac that deposits the nacre around the nucleus producing the pearl.
    Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are cultured with only the piece of mantle tissue from another donor freshwater mollusk. This piece of tissue is placed inside the mantle on either side of the bivalve. As this is the muscle connecting the mollusk to the shell it is much larger than a gonad. It is capable of accepting 25 implants on either side, for a possible harvest of 50 pearls in a single mollusk.

    When the freshwater pearl is harvested it is then drilled, and the mantle tissue used to nucleate the pearl is either dissolved or drilled out – you are left with a solid pearl. This is unlike the various saltwater pearl varieties that still contain the nucleus in the finished product. Why, then, is the freshwater pearl so much less valuable than all the others, one might ask.
    The first reason is the ease of the culturing process. An Akoya oyster can theoretically hold up to five nucleations, although more than two is nearly unheard of. Tahitian and South Sea oysters may only be nucleated with a single nucleus at a time. Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, will produce 35-50 pearls per mollusk consistently.

    Although the culturing time for a freshwater mollusk is 3-5 years versus the typical 2 years for a saltwater pearl, the cost, the risk, and suitable farm locations are all in favor of freshwater pearl farms. Even with a mortality rate of 25% (half that of any saltwater farm), the harvest is almost always good. Freshwater pearl farms rarely have to deal with weather and natural disasters (such as red tide) that constantly plague saltwater farms.

    Another reason freshwater pearls do not value as high as their counterparts is their aesthetic appeal. Freshwater pearls are rarely round. They may be close to round in their highest qualities, but almost never achieve the spherical shape of a saltwater pearl. A freshwater pearl will also rarely have the brilliant luster and shine of a quality Akoya pearl. For this reason, freshwater pearls are mainly used in design jewelry that places more value on the design of the piece versus the cost of the product. If one were to venture into a high-end jewelry store such as Tiffany’s they will a wide array of quality Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearl jewelry, but only designer jewelry composed of freshwater pearls. When freshwater pearls have been value-added in this way they can fetch a good price in a retail store.

    A final reason freshwater pearls have a lower value than others is their abundance. 15 years ago freshwater pearls were nearly exclusive to lake Biwa in Japan. A decade ago nearly all pearl farms were shuttered due to pollution in the lake. Japan has never recovered its freshwater pearl industry. Until recently, with lake Kasumigaura boasting a small harvest of quality freshwater pearls, Japan has merely imported its freshwater pearl requirements from China.

    China is where freshwater pearls come from today. It is said in many parts of China that anyone with a small plot of land and access to freshwater either has, or plans to have a freshwater pearl farm. Tens upon thousands of freshwater pearl farms have popped up all around China in the last two decades. Because of the intense local competition prices for freshwater pearls have been dropping at a steady rate since the mid 1990’s. Even as quality increases, prices continue to drop. A strand that would cost $5-600 in 1995 (and still may at a jewelry store comprised of unturned stock) may only cost $75-125 in a local beading store today. The only freshwater pearls that still hold value today are those with clean surface, high shine, and very near-round shapes – or less than 3% of a farms total harvest.

    Chinese freshwater pearls are very popular in China, and a huge export. Pearl markets dot the cities throughout China, like Hongqiao Market in Biejing, and Pearl Village in Shanghai. These markets are mainly targeting local shoppers and tourists, however, and high-quality pearls are a rare. Serious buyers attend Chinese tradeshows and visits local farming communities such as Wuxi and Nanjing. The highest-quality pearls rarely leave these areas unpurchased by a major international buyer.

    This is not to say, of course, that freshwater pearls are not good pearls and that one should stay away from them by any means! Let us not forget that freshwater cultured pearls are still genuine pearls. They are also solid nacre – they will last a lifetime. Freshwater pearls are also a very good gift for the value-conscious. It is possible to obtain a nice freshwater pearl necklace for well under $100. It is impossible to find a high-quality Akoya pearl necklace of any size in this price range on a retail level.
    Last edited by jshepherd; 08-10-2004 at 10:46 PM. Reason: formatting

  2. #2
    Kenji
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    Default Japanese Freshwater Pearls

    We do have some freshwater pearls available in Japan. But more than 99% of them are imported from China. I would never suggest buying freshwater pearls from here because the price is much better there.
    We had a lake that produced good quality freshwater pearls for a long time. Lake Biwa became so polluted, however, that all the farms have closed.

    There is a new lake, however, that is producing pearls. It is called Kasumigaura. These pearls are typically large, and quite round. Most of them are pink. They are nice pearls, but very, very expensive.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Freshwater Pearls

    I was actually fortunate enough to see a selection of the new pearls from Lake Kasumigaura. I had a customer that asked me about these pearls so I checked out an exporter based in Kobe. This is my take on those pearls:

    Kasumigaura pearls are typically quite round, and do have an interesting color overtone. Most of the pearls were of a pink coloration. I compared them against a nice freshwater strand I had purchased from a farm based out of Wuxi China and the Chinese strand was 'hands down' a nicer strand. The Chinese strand was clean, had a brighter shine, and the color was deeper. The Chinese strand was 10-11mm, and the Kasumigaura strand was 10-12mm. I had purchased a hank of these Chinese strands for less than $300 each, while the Japanese strands were priced at nearly $3000!

    I feel that at this time the Kasumigaura pearls are not a good value for the average pearl buyer. Not only is the cost prohibitive, it would also take a very trained eye to distinguish them from a good commercial quality Chinese strand. The only market I can see for these pearls is the pearl connoisseur. If one is interested in these strands I would strongly recommend waiting a few years for market forces to take effect and the prices to drop.
    Last edited by jshepherd; 11-11-2004 at 03:12 AM. Reason: none

  4. #4

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    Lake Biwa became so polluted, however, that all the farms have closed.

    There is a new lake, however, that is producing pearls. It is called Kasumigaura. These pearls are typically large, and quite round. Most of them are pink. They are nice pearls, but very, very expensive.
    Just Curious, what was the cause of the the pollution in Lake Biwa and is Lake Kasumigaura succeptable to the same problems?

  5. #5
    Kenji
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    Default Lake Biwa Pollution

    Lake Biwa lies very near Kyoto in the Shiga prefecture and is the largest in Japan. It has more than 500 rivers flowing into it from Ibuki, Suzuka, and the Hira mountains. It covers nearly 240 square miles.
    Pearl culturing began in this lake in 1914 using the Hyriopsis schlegelii, or Biwa Pearl Mussel. The farms were so successful and so many pearls were produced that decades later Biwa pearl is nearly synonymous with freshwater pearls. This is before pollution devastated the industry.
    The main pollution began after World War II. Shiga prefecture was a very rural, fishing community. But as more inhabitants came and more industry came in the lake gradually started to decline. The residents finally tried to do something about this in the later 1970's but by this time it was really too late.
    The peak of pearl production from this lake was in 1971 when more than 6 tons of pearls were produced. Since this time because of the pollution and overharvesting the Biwa Mussel has gradually drawn toward extinction. Pearl farmers now use a hybrid of this mussel and are still trying to culture these pearls in other freshwater sources. But none have even come close to the success of Lake Biwa's.

  6. #6
    Kenji
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    Default Lake Kasumigaura

    These pearls are grown in Hyriopsis Schlegeli Anadonata/Plicata hybrid mussels. The Kasumigaura pearls are named after the lake Kasumigaura which is located North of Tokyo.

    This lake has much cleaner water and has already been protected because of environmentalism and the fact that they need to protect the freshwater eel habitat that is native to this lake and important for the economy.

    PS
    I forgot to mention in my last post that Lake Biwa actually had a freshwater red tide in May of 1977. Red tide will decimate any oyster population, and it is rare in freshwater lakes.

  7. #7
    carehret
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    Default Kasumiga Pearls

    I simply do not agree with the evaluation of the Kasumiga Pearls against Large Chinese Freshwater Pearls. The Kasumiga Pearls I have seen & purchased are Incredibly Lusterous, and HOLD the Luster! I have purchased MANY Chinese Large Colorful Pearls , since 1994,and only about 20% Hold thier Luster and do not start to break down. I've had MANY Strands that develop cracks, seams, White Spots after only one year!
    The Kasumiga Pearls are VERY Rare. I have worn a Strand for over 4 Years and the Luster gets better & better! They have the most unusual Rainbow natural overtones of Color!
    Kasumigas Are Superior to any Cultured Chinese Pearl I have purchased & Sold!
    The Lake is currently diseased and 80% of the Rare Hybrid Mollusks have died. The Culturers have now moved the Location and are hopeful in 3-4 Years there will be an increase in Production.
    In my opinion , it is extremely wise to invest in Kasumiga Pearls, One of the Most Beautiful Rare Pearls in the World!
    Thanks for listening!

  8. #8
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Hi Carehret
    Welcome to this forum!

    Just so the rest of you know, Carolyn Ehret is a jewelry designer who specializes in unique drusy pieces set in 22 carat gold. After years of pearl study, she added special and unique pearls to her line. She is an authentic pearl lover and connoisseur. After seeing her incredible and unique designs (on ebay as well as at the Tucson Gem show), I have been planning on interviewing her for an article on this forum.

    Go here to see a strand of her Mexican pearls and click through to her store:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tem=4973281225

  9. #9
    PearlsAndJade.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd
    I was actually fortunate enough to see a selection of the new pearls from Lake Kasumigaura. I had a customer that asked me about these pearls so I checked out an exporter based in Kobe. This is my take on those pearls:
    This eBay seller is calling these pearls Kasumi Pearls.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...MEWA%3AIT&rd=1

    I have not seen pearls from Lake Kasumigaura in person, but I do have some Chinese fw pearls of varying colors from pink to purple, and a little smaller, that look strikingly familiar to these. The seller has several auctions (some may be completed) of this type.

    Just wondering if these are actually Chinese fw pearls?

    Bill

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Default

    I do think those are true Kasumi ga Ura pearls. They look a lot like the genuine ones that I have seen. The price they sold for ($202) is very good as well. I think someone get a great deal there.

  11. #11
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    HI Bill

    If you search carehret or Kasumi on this site you will find several mentions of this Ebay seller. She is a one-post member of this board as well (post is above). She Googled Kasumi and came up with this forum.

    Anyway, I have mentioned her both as a good example of an ebay seller (with a 98.8 positive feedback over 1000's of sales) and as a person with a gourmet taste in pearls who specializes in Kasumi, Sea of Cortez and other Wild, Extreme, Iridescent, Glowing, Exotic & Rare pearls- to take a just a few colorful words from her lexicon.

    I saw her wares and met her son at the last gem show (she is from Tucson too) and I think she is very real in her passion and enthusiasm and knowledge. I originally interviewed her over the phone for an article here, but she gets mentioned so often here, anyway, I haven't done it yet.

    I also have her listed as a favorite ebay seller so I can keep an eye on her stuff, though I haven't ordered from her- I think she gets way high prices for her stuff!

    I know where to get pearls like some of hers, including the kasumi, from another dealer her son referred me to. I got a 9mm with all the characteristics of these, for $25, at the show last Feb. She is definitely selling for retail prices. Even her starting price was quite retail. Which is why I think she is a great ebay seller!

    I do believe she also has a real edge on some of the Sea of Cortez pearls, though the ones I have seen don't look like the pteria pearls, but the margaritas (please correct me, if needed)
    Last edited by Caitlin; 08-27-2005 at 02:18 PM. Reason: to get carehret spelled right

  12. #12
    PearlsAndJade.com
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    My thanks to Caitlin and to Jeremy for their responses to my question on the Kasumi pearls.

    Bill

  13. #13
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Bill

    Tell us more about the Chinese Kasumi-like pearls you saw. Could I get 10 strands to a kilo of pearls like that somewhere? What was the last price you saw for suchlike pearls??

    I really love that bumpy iridescent luminescent look! I want some, but at 100th the Kasumi prices, because they are NOT Kasumis, they are imperfect Chinese!

  14. #14
    PearlsAndJade.com
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    Hi Caitlin,

    I have two strands that were sent to me as samples, so I don't know the price of them yet. I've been very busy trying to sort and inventory the pearls I bought on this trip as they aririve. Some samples were included and I just don't have time to follow up on samples yet.

    When I can get to it, I'll have to do checking of sources to see what prices and quality are available to me, and decide if I want to import them.

    I have two other strands that I bought that were very expensive, but they were well matched strands that took awhile to match. They are not for sale.

    The price that I have to pay will probably depend on the quality, the matching, etc. That is, how many on the strand don't have really flat sides, so that they're about the same all around, and a consistant size.

    If, in a few weeks, I decide to import them, I'll let you know what price I can sell them for.

    Bill

  15. #15
    carehret
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    Default Kasumi Pearls

    Hello,
    It's Care Ehret here! I've missed reading the forum. So Busy!!!
    If you are familiar with many of the Rare Pearls I do sell you see my wholesale prices are Very Very fair, particularly for the quality. I buy always the Best Quality & don't mind supporting many Pearl Farmers around the Globe with fair prices.I don't believe in pushing for the lowest price when Quality & a Good Business relationship is involved. There are many Kasumis out there with White Mold & severe blemishes for much less $$.Depends on what you like.
    If anyone has any question in particular for me, ask away. I'll be going on a buying trip in a few weeks, so lots new coming soon.
    Enjoy, Carolyn


    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin Williams
    HI Bill

    If you search carehret or Kasumi on this site you will find several mentions of this Ebay seller. She is a one-post member of this board as well (post is above). She Googled Kasumi and came up with this forum.

    Anyway, I have mentioned her both as a good example of an ebay seller (with a 98.8 positive feedback over 1000's of sales) and as a person with a gourmet taste in pearls who specializes in Kasumi, Sea of Cortez and other Wild, Extreme, Iridescent, Glowing, Exotic & Rare pearls- to take a just a few colorful words from her lexicon.

    I saw her wares and met her son at the last gem show (she is from Tucson too) and I think she is very real in her passion and enthusiasm and knowledge. I originally interviewed her over the phone for an article here, but she gets mentioned so often here, anyway, I haven't done it yet.

    I also have her listed as a favorite ebay seller so I can keep an eye on her stuff, though I haven't ordered from her- I think she gets way high prices for her stuff!

    I know where to get pearls like some of hers, including the kasumi, from another dealer her son referred me to. I got a 9mm with all the characteristics of these, for $25, at the show last Feb. She is definitely selling for retail prices. Even her starting price was quite retail. Which is why I think she is a great ebay seller!

    I do believe she also has a real edge on some of the Sea of Cortez pearls, though the ones I have seen don't look like the pteria pearls, but the margaritas (please correct me, if needed)