Freshwater pearl cultivation started in China on 13th century and is still going strong to this day. The Chinese used to put premade shapes, for example like Buddha inside the mussel and nacre grew over it, and that's how pearl culturing started. The freshwater pearls grow in rivers, lakes and ponds inside the freshwater mussels. For a long time freshwater pearls were considered the 'ugly duckling' of the pearl family. The pearls were small in size (diameter 5mm, when saltwater pearls average diameter can be 10mm and up) and the luster wasn't that great, mostly dull. Most of the pearls were baroque shape, meaning uneven surface and a lot of blemishes (see picture for nr.11 and nr.12). As freshwater pearl is all nacre, its harder and more time consuming (2-7 years) to grow bigger and rounder pearls. Nevertheless, all nacre means good durability for pearls. But the Chinese didn't stop with the average freshwater pearl and a lot of research went into changing the freshwater pearl.
Today we see totally different freshwater pearl with big sizes (pearl nr.7), great high luster (pearl nr.10) and wonderful colours that anyone can imagine (pearl nr.1 and nr.3). The pearl number one is called soufflé pearl, the uneven shape and big size is due to bead nucleated cultivation, a method usually used with saltwater pearls (same for pearl nr.2 and nr.5).
Understanding pearl types and prices can be a little tricky first. The following criteria are considered: shape, size, surface, colour, luster and pearl type. Round shapes are considered more expensive for pearls and also bigger sizes. But for example pear nr.7 can be more expensive than pearl nr.1, even the size is considerably smaller. But a round big pearl still needs great colour and high luster to be the top gem as well as smooth surface. If one criterion is not met, the price can drop dramatically. Also pearl type plays a role, saltwater pearls are more expensive as they are rare and considered more attractive (the freshwater pearl is following closely). As pearl growing can take at least 2 years for freshwater pearls, the price also depends on the time invested in the pearl.
For the great variety of shapes, sizes and amazing colours, the freshwater pearl is a unique star in your jewellery selection.