The Different types of Freshwater Pearls

Views 4 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this Guide is helpful

Pearls are natural organic substances, they can occur in a wide variety of shapes, many of which are quite unique and interesting. The round pearls you most commonly see are by no means the only shape in which pearls are found! The other varieties include Baroque Pearls, Rice Pearls, Button Pearls, Biwa Pearls, Coin Pearls, Firecracker Pearls and Blister Pearls. 

Indeed, perfectly round pearls are actually quite rare. This is because the eventual shape of the pearl is determined by a number of highly variable factors which occur inside the oyster as the pearl is developing. For example, the pearl often assumes the same shape as its nucleus (the irritant which was placed inside the oyster to initiate the formation of the pearl). If the nucleus is not perfectly round, the resulting pearl is likely to reflect this irregularity. In addition, the pearl's positioning within the oyster also plays a role in determining its shape. If the pearl develops against the shell, for example, it will become more flattened on that side.

ROUND PEARLS

Round pearls are rarely perfect spheres, unless they are of gem quality or an imitation pearl. The longer the pearl remains within the oyster or mussel, the more chance there is of it developing a different shape. Contrary to the images portrayed very large round pearls are extremely rare and very expensive. Even seawater pearls, which have a round shell bead as their nucleus, have a hard time keeping their shape as they grow. Increasing the size of the bead increases the mortality rate of the oyster. Many of the largest, most beautiful pearls come from the South Seas, thus Tahitian and South Sea Pearls can be extremely expensive.

BAROQUE PEARLS

The term off-round or Baroque (a general term for an irregular shape) is used to describe pearls which are 'roundish' to the eye but have a slightly oval or flattened shape. They can still have excellent qualities in terms of lustre or lack of blemish but being off-round makes them less expensive. Before the cultured pearl industry began in the early 1900's most natural wild pearls were baroque. Off round pearls can provide excellent value for money.

RICE PEARLS

Oval pearls are also known as rice pearls although this is a slightly misleading term. It comes from the early days of Chinese freshwater pearl production when large numbers of low quality pearls came onto the market and were derided as 'rice-crispies' after the cereal. Today, Chinese freshwater pearls can compete in quality with the world's best. Oval pearls come in a variety of sizes and colours. Sometimes they are formed when two pearls growing close to one another in the same mollusc join together.

BUTTON PEARLS

Button pearls are so-called because of their distinctive shape - round on one side and flat on the other. Button pearls are flattened to some degree, making them resemble a button or perhaps a disk rather than a perfect sphere. These pearls are often used in earrings, where the flattened side can be attached to the setting.

BIWA PEARLS

The term 'Biwa' derives from Lake Biwa - a large freshwater lake near Kyoto in Japan. This was once the focus of the Japanese freshwater pearl industry. In the 1980's pearl production there virtually ceased due to industrial pollution. Biwa became a generic name for all freshwater pearls regardless of their shape. Technically it is incorrect to call pearls Biwa pearls (like French fries or English muffins) unless they actually come from Lake Biwa. We use the term simply to identify the unique shape of these particular pearls.

 

 

Have something to share, create your own Guide... Write a Guide
Explore more Guides