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Cultured Freshwater Pearls Today are Improving in Both Beauty and Quality

Freshwater pearls are very well known for their affordability and variety, especially in a tropical country like ours. These products come mostly from China's provincial regions, grown and harvested from river mollusks by the thousands.

It's a common assumption to believe that freshwater pearls are not as beautiful as those produced by saltwater mollusks, like the famed Pinctada maxima (South Sea) or the Pinctada margaritifera (Tahitian).

The pearls derived from freshwater sources are often very plentiful, as the culturing process for their types of mollusks allows you to produce anywhere from 20 to 40 pearls in a single mussel. This is a stark advantage over saltwater cultured pearl production, where mollusks typically only produce few or a single pearl at a time.

Freshwater pearls here in Metro Manila, are probably known by most as the hanging strands of keshi (rice-shape) and coin pearls situated on the bazaar space of tiangge's like the one in Greenhills shopping center. Although these pearls are very cheap and often used in costume jewelry, it should be noted that some producers are now making efforts to create freshwater pearls in larger and more round variations.

China's foray into cultured freshwater pearl farming has allowed them to develop their products to great extents in 2018. We've seen apricot and champagne colored freshwater pearls that looked perfectly round, grown using a bead nucleus like traditional saltwater pearl culturing. Of course, these types would not be as affordable as their keshi cousins, but their prices were remarkably only a fraction of those asked for south sea pearls at the same fair. It's not very easy for non-gemologists to tell the difference between the two types anymore, given their similarities, but proper testing at a laboratory can still tell the difference.

The freshwater pearl market is growing, due to a more constant supply and varied progress in quality improvement, however the top of the cultured pearl market still belongs to the golden and silver south sea pearls, to which the Philippines is famous for producing.

*Please note that Gemcamp laboratories does test for pearls, but only those used in traditional jewelry- nacreous small pearls like akoya, south sea and tahitian species. We DO NOT perform tests for large pearls that are suspected to belong to the giant clam species or Tridacna gigas.
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