The Farming & Cultivation Of Freshwater Pearls
The increasingly excited buzz and vast public popularity of Freshwater Pearls, particularly within the world of fashion, is quite logically understandable, as well as fashionably well deserved. Since the organic hosts of freshwater pearls are mussels, which can naturally grow 10 times larger than saltwater oysters, the old adage “Bigger Is Better” predictably comes into play when talking about jewelry. Cultivated without the shell bead nucleus, freshwater pearls are pretty much pure, gorgeously lustrous, effervescently colorful nacre. Add to that, the fact that each mussel can produce multiple pearls per cycle and that the entire process involves far less advanced surgical skills than ocean pearl cultivation …and suddenly these once “priceless” pearls are now far more easily, readily and inexpensively available than ever.
Freshwater pearl farming takes place during the spring and autumn months, when the water temperatures and the external environment, such as the weather, is calm, temperate and free of extremes. Freshwater pearls thrive in peaceful, calm and stable conditions. The stability of the environment serves to ensure a vast wealth of nutrients within the water, feeding the mussels like royalty as they create the glorious nacre of a gem fit for kings or queens.
Selecting The Mussels:
Only the very strongest, healthiest and most beautiful mussels are utilized in this fascinating, “treasure making” process. Based upon a meticulous set of particular quality standards, the premium quality mussels are then further divided into two special groups. One group will be used to provide the necessary “implantable tissue” while the second group will serve as the “host” that will be implanted.
Once chosen, the selected mussels are then continuously soaked in a basin for a few days, properly cleaned and then placed in a shallow tub with the level of the water just slightly lower than the mussels, so that they can breathe.
Freshwater mussels are grafted using a piece of mantle tissue only, without the insertion of any bead. The mantle tissue is placed into an incision in the host mussel's mantle instead of the gonad. Since both sides of the valve can receive grafts, the average freshwater mussel can actually produce up to 32 pearls per culturing cycle.
The technician carefully opens the mussel only about ½ inch wide, in order to avoid injuring the host and cuts a triangular incision in the fleshy mantle tissue, inserting a square piece of mantle tissue from a donor mussel that is approximately 3mm in size, between the Mother-of-Pearl layer and the cell lining.
Once inserted, the donor tissue is strategically shaped and twisted with needles in order to effectively round out the edges to ensure that a physically smooth and comfortably hospitable “pearl sac” is then naturally allowed to be produced and activated.
Now the mussels must be carefully suspended in peacefully calm and temperate water, usually attached to floating barges or by placing 3 to 4 mussels in a nylon net and hanging the nets at 3 ft. intervals from thick nylon ropes tied between to strong, stabilizing poles.
While suspended, the implanted mussels are given the utmost care and allowed to continuously splurge on nutritionally ripe feasts of everything from carbamide and soybean milk, to the vast plethora of healthy and nutritious organisms that are naturally growing in the fresh, clean water and various organic fertilizers, such as bean cake and chicken manure.
Protection and Care:
Constant attention is paid to the temperature of the water and optimum feeding conditions, which can easily be effectively remedied simply by moving the mussel’s depth up or down as necessary. The mussels are also regularly lifted from the water by technician for meticulously scheduled cleanings and consistent health examinations, ensuring immediate response regarding any necessary procedure or treatment.
Increased Cultivation Periods:
Originally, most freshwater pearls were only allowed a mere 18 to 24 months to cultivate, before they were harvested. This resulted in very small, low grade pearls between 7 - 8 mm in size. Now many pearl farmers have wisely extended the cultivation period to as long as 5 years, delivering up freshwater pearls of a much more pristinely perfect quality, strength, beauty and luster, at sizes that sometimes exceed 15 mm.
Exponential Value Increases:
Besides the fact that freshwater pearls are now so much larger and stronger, more lustrous and beautiful due to the increased cultivation periods, a major improvement to over-all pearl quality and value is attributed to the shift away from the lower quality, lower integrity “Cockscomb Mussel” (Cristaria plicata) and utilization of the stronger, healthier, more resilient and clearly superior “Triangle Shell Mussel” (Hyriopsis cumingii). Freshwater pearl farmers focus on optimum, premium quality and beauty, instead of mass produced quantities, so they’ve greatly reduced the number of grafts that are inserted into each valve, while decreasing the cycles and seasons that each mussel works before retirement and have learned to better utilize nature, as well as science, to engineer increasingly impressive “waves” of over-all quality and outrageously eye-catching, exotic colors & hues through mussel hybridization.