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Beading Resources > EncycloBEADia > Pearl, Cultured Freshwater

 Cultured Freshwater Pearls Gemstone Properties 

Pearls are one of the earliest gemstones found by prehistoric man, most likely along the coastline of India. They've been used for personal adornment and coveted by peoples throughout the globe for thousands of years. Ancient myths tell of pearls being formed when oysters opened their shells, rose to the water's surface and were seeded by the early morning rays of sunlight and drops of dew.

Designing With Pearls

So many varieties, so many design possibilities! From classic knotted strands to long, colorful layers of Expression Jewelry™ , cultured freshwater pearl designs run the gamut. Contrast multiple strands of pink pearls with black onyx or, for a more subtle emphasis, mix natural, warm-toned pearls with carnelian beads. White and cream-colored pearls are radiant against the soft pastels of amethyst, aquamarine and peach moonstone. Pearls pop next to gold beads and blend with silver beads. For those special occasions, mix pearls with cubic zirconia components.

Protect your cultured freshwater pearls and other gemstones by knotting between beads with a bead-knotting tool. Knotting also adds length and drape, so you can use fewer beads and have greater movement between each. (For information on The Bead Knotter™, visit the press release section of the website.)

Why limit this gem to jewelry?Pearls are the perfect embellishment for shrugs, sweaters, scarves and wraps. Combine them with embroidery stitching or as a simple base trim. Pearls can either blend with the color of the material or contrast with the fabric to bring out their color. Swarovski® crystal beads (for center) and petal pearls (for petals) make dazzling flowers on jeans, jackets and sweaters. Teardrop pearls and delica seed beads are idea for fringe.

Proper Care

Pearls are soft and should be treated delicately. Never use ultrasonic cleaners or steamers. Wipe gently with a soft cloth after each wearing or, for more thorough cleanings, use mild soap and water. If knotted, make sure cord is completely dry before wearing.

Metaphysical/Healing Properties

Some healers use pearls to help balance body rhythms and hormone levels with lunar cycles, and to harmonize human beings with the natural world. The inner glow (orient) of pearls is thought to tap inner-wisdom and nurture love. Pearls are also believed to signify innocence and faith.

Geological Properties

Most pearls today are cultured. Marine and freshwater mollusks (oysters and mussels) are collected and a small shell bead placed inside. The mollusks are then returned to the water where they make the pearl. Layers of calcium carbonate are secreted, coating the piece of shell, to form a spherical, oblong, or irregular-shaped pearl. It takes roughly 3 to 7 years for mollusks to produce a single pearl. The color of the pearl varies depending on the type of mollusk. (The oysters and mussels that make the pearls are not related to the edible varieties of oysters and mussels.)

Most natural and cultured freshwater pearls are found in the waters of Japan, China and the South Seas, however many are harvested along the coasts of Australia and the rivers of Austria, France, Scotland and Ireland. Cultured freshwater pearls are also grown along the Mississippi River in the United States.

Chemical CompositionCalcium Carbonate (CaCO3), organic substances, water
AppearanceWhite, pink, silver, cream, gold, green, blue, black; translucent to opaque
Hardness2-1/2 - 4 (Moh's)
Specific Gravity2.61 - 2.85 (saltwater)
Refractive Index1.52 - 1.66
Cause of ColorVaries depending on type of mollusk

Additional Resources

To learn more about pearls and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of GEMSTONES of the World.

For inspirational jewelry design ideas featuring cultured freshwater pearls, visit the Gallery of Designs.

For the most up-to-date fashion and color forecasts, visit Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® Fashion Spotlight.

**Please note that all Metaphysical/Healing Properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat varied conditions within one's life. We do not guarantee any of the statements made or the validity of these statements.

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Products sold by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® are intended for experienced jewelry-makers and designer-artists;
children 14 years of age or younger should use these products with adult direction.

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