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Freshwater Pearls


The Revolution: Cultured Freshwater Pearls

In 1914, pearl farmers began growing cultured Freshwater Pearls using mussels native to Lake Biwa. This lake, the largest and most ancient in Japan, lies near the city of Kyoto.

For over half a century, pearls grown in Lake Biwa were known as the most beautiful pearls in the world. Lake Biwa was once world-renowned for producing high quality Freshwaters produced by the Hyriopsis Schlegelii, the Biwa Pearl mussel. The phrase 'Biwa Pearls' became almost synonymous with Freshwater Pearls.

Pollution has caused a virtual extinction of this part of the pearl industry, a significant decrease from the six tons of Biwa Freshwater Pearls that were produced per year since peak production in 1971. Japanese pearl farmers recently cultured a hybrid pearl mussel—a cross between Biwa Pearl mussels and a closely related species native to China, Hyriopsis Cumingi—in Lake Kasumigaura. Pearl farming in Lake Kasumigaura has also fallen victim to pollution.

Japanese pearl producers have also invested in producing cultured pearls with Freshwater mussels in the region of Shanghai. China has since become the world's largest producer of Freshwaters, producing more than 1,500 metric tons per year.

Freshwaters are currently a major fashion craze. Mix them with Akoya Pearls, layer them with Tahitian and South Sea Pearls, and play with different lengths, colors, shapes and sizes.