• Become a Pearl Insider!

    Register as a member today for exclusive access to, member only insider info, incredible contests to exotic locations, and have your questions answered by pearl experts from around the world.

    Join the community today. Just click Register at the top!

A review of freshwater pearls in Tucson


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2004
Tucson Arizona is not the freshwater pearl capitol of the world, except for 14 days in February each year during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows when it probably looks a little like China in the FW pearl booths.

I have been looking for good quality round, white fw pearls here in town. I think the range of fw pearls available is pretty typical for a town this size. There are plenty of colors in plenty of shapes in great abundance but nothing really, really nice for a classic long pearl necklace.

I bought 2 samples of white potato beads in the price range available in Tucson. Both strands had problems reaching my ideal. This is part of upgrading my pearl education, so it is ok. I will probably buy a kilo when I find the right pearls, but I am still a long way away.

I found some 7.5 almost round potato bead for about $4 and $5 a strand at Jay’s Indian Arts bead store. Jay’s gives everyone with a resale number a 50% discount in addition to the tax deferral. I buy my needles, seed beads, and thread and stuff like that here. They have a great selection of rice, and other shaped, fw pearls.

In reviewing the pearls I bought there: On the plus side, every pearl really is almost round to the eye. The color is just a little off white on the creamy side. Nice, but not very subtle, no play of under-overtones. Maybe 2 of 5 beads have a better luster than the others and 1 of 20 is rather dull. The least attractive thing to my eye is that almost every pearl has single or multiple bands and dimples. Nevertheless, they are ok from 4 or more feet away and I’d use these to make an eyeglass necklace. I think they are a fair price and I got what I paid for wholesale.

There are other bead stores in Tucson and I visited them. The big guy in town, Beaucoup Conge`, the major provider of Swarovski (sp?) and other good beads, had virtually the same almost round potato bead as the Indian Arts guy, but they told me about Strung Out On Beads, an upscale bead store that has mostly quality gemstone beads, not the mass produced stuff at the Indian Arts store, and it is better than the quality stuff at the big guy’s store.

Tracy, the manager, was extremely nice and helpful. She showed me her fw pearls, then I looked at her Akoyas and she even brought 3 strands of Tahitians out of the back room. I got to hold them and look at them with a loupe. I don’t have the nerve to put them on my teeth. I wouldn’t want to deposit my dna there, or pickup someone else’s, anyway. This was all good for my education, but none of the salt-water pearls really excited me. I did buy one strand of their 7.5 potato beads for $18.75. I paid retail and tax. They were subtly, but visibly off round compared to the cheaper pearls from Jay’s, but not extremely so, I’d guess 80-90% round. Actually, I like a little irregularity in roundness. About a quarter were even oval, and they were too far off. They have much better color than the Indian Arts pearls. They are white. But they have a brightness and play of color from bead to bead. Almost iridescent. Most have some bright luster, but not the brightest. None have full bands but there is some dimpling and mild partial banding that you have to get up close to see. I believe that this is the best strand of fw pearls available in Tucson until the gem show!

I plan on attending even more intensely than usual this year and I hope to add to my pearl education. Anyone who reads this forum planning on bringing pearls? If so, please email me with your booth location.