Introduction to Freshwater Pearls

Perhaps no other type of cultured pearl has gone through more change over the past twenty years than the freshwater pearl. Freshwater pearls were traditionally grown using only a small piece of donor tissue inserted into a host mussel’s mantle. But recent innovations have led to a new way of farming freshwater pearls—inserting a bead or other substance into the mussel, similar to the methods used in saltwater pearl farming.

The two methods produce dramatically different pearls. So, we’ve split the chapter on freshwater pearls into two separate parts: Traditional (non-beaded) freshwater pearls, and "new" nucleated freshwater pearls.