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  1. #1
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    Default when did near-round freshwater pearls come into the market?

    I'm sure this is an easy question, but I'm having a hard time trying to figure out when near-round cultured freshwater pearls came to be commonplace. I have Renee Newman's book and she talks about Biwa pearls with a bead nucleus emerging in the 1930s internationally--would these have been considered a rough equivalent to a classic Akoya necklace? Were such necklaces commonly available in the US? I always think of true Biwa FWP as baroque shaped.

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    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Before WWII Biwa pearls were grown with a nucleus similar to the way Kasumi pearls are grown today. They didn't become widely known or recognized, but were called "Fujita Rose Pearls" in the 1930s. What people recognize as Biwa pearls are the non-beaded pearls that were universally baroque.

    Round and near-round pearls didn't really start appearing until the 1990s when the Chinese began using the Hyriopsis cumingi (triangle sail) mussel in place of the Cristaria plicata (cockscomb).

    Over the past 15 years, farms in China have moved mostly to a hybrid of the H.c. and the Japanese Hyriopsis schlegeli (Biwa pearly mussel). Round pearls and pearls with true metallic luster have become more available.

    The next version we are going to start seeing in 1-2 years is small bead-nucleated like akoya. When that happens on a large scale, most freshwater pearls will be round.

  3. #3
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd View Post
    ...

    The next version we are going to start seeing in 1-2 years is small bead-nucleated like akoya. When that happens on a large scale, most freshwater pearls will be round.
    And when that happens, I think we will see threads with titles like "Are these pearls akoyas or freshwaters?" just as we are now getting people wondering if their pearls are Edisons or SSP.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jshepherd View Post
    Before WWII Biwa pearls were grown with a nucleus similar to the way Kasumi pearls are grown today. They didn't become widely known or recognized, but were called "Fujita Rose Pearls" in the 1930s. What people recognize as Biwa pearls are the non-beaded pearls that were universally baroque.

    Round and near-round pearls didn't really start appearing until the 1990s when the Chinese began using the Hyriopsis cumingi (triangle sail) mussel in place of the Cristaria plicata (cockscomb).

    Over the past 15 years, farms in China have moved mostly to a hybrid of the H.c. and the Japanese Hyriopsis schlegeli (Biwa pearly mussel). Round pearls and pearls with true metallic luster have become more available.

    The next version we are going to start seeing in 1-2 years is small bead-nucleated like akoya. When that happens on a large scale, most freshwater pearls will be round.
    Jeremy, thank you so much for sharing your expertise! Your insight into the history of pearling is immensely valuable.

    But now I'm a bit stumped. I asked this question because I have a pearl necklace that my mother was given on her 13th birthday in 1958 (and which I got on my 13th birthday) that I have always assumed were lower-quality freshwater pearls. The strand passes the tooth test, is not graduated, and the pearls range from 5 to 5.5mm, with an ordinary 14K gold fishhook clasp. They are all variations of off-round, each with some kind of mostly minor surface blemish, and are mostly creamy white with a few that are slightly pink or slightly yellow. I would also say the strand has only a medium luster.

    Compared to my well-matched, round, high-luster Akoyas, most people would quickly pass this strand right by. Now if near-round freshwater pearls weren't commonly available in the US in the late 1950s, is this just a strand of very low grade bead-nucleated Akoyas? And if these aren't Akoyas, then where would tissue-cultured freshwater pearls have come from during this time period?

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  5. #5
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by west of the moon View Post
    …is this just a strand of very low grade bead-nucleated Akoyas?
    Yes, they look like lower quality, non-graduated akoyas to me. There are akoyas that are semi-round or even baroque. Nacre is not always laid down evenly, and it is not surprising that there are also some blemishes. I think such a strand would have been an appropriate gift for a young teen.


    It's nice that you shared the tradition with your mother of getting them on your 13th birthday. As such they have real sentimental value! Do you plan to pass them along to someone special on her 13th birthday-- daughter, or niece?
    Last edited by Pearl Dreams; 05-14-2018 at 05:22 AM.

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    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    I agree. Those are akoya pearls, not freshwater.

  7. #7
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert BWeaves's Avatar
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    In the photos, they look quite nice. And with baroque pearls being more popular than ever, they're quite in style.

  8. #8
    Pearl Scholar Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pattye's Avatar
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    What a thoughtful family tradition! Your pearls likely have thick nacre compared to many Akoyas nowdays ~ they look very pretty to me. They are a great size to layer with other pearls, chains or add an pendant/enhancer for a change.

    Thank you very much, Jeremy, for the historical information on bead nucleated pearls.
    Pattye


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  9. #9
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert
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    I always enjoy reading Jeremy's historical insight. These look like lovely pearls to me. I love the family tradition as well.

  10. #10
    Pearl Journalist Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert GemGeek's Avatar
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    A great strand of pearls with a great story! I would wear those in a heartbeat.
    GemGeek
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