As a buyer, seller, collector, and connoisseur of world’s most historically coveted gemstone, there is one question I have answered more than any other. A question which is likely the wisest a potential customer may ask. My answer will surprise most, as it goes against the perceptions of the average consumer. It is based on a veritable appreciation and understanding of an astoundingly variable gem.
If you were me, what type of pearl would you choose? What type of pearl do you most appreciate and why?
I appreciate the beauty of all pearls, whether they are cultured or natural. I love the metallic luminosity of a fine strand of Akoya pearls. I appreciate the varied hues of a dark peacock Tahitian pearl. I respect the size and regal elegance of South Sea pearls. But there is one pearl that has captured my eye, my imagination, and ultimately my heart in the last decade. It is the cultured freshwater pearl.
To those who have researched or simply admired pearls, the word freshwater has a colorful, fun connotation. These are the pearls that are known for their whimsical shapes and natural hues unique to the species of mollusk which produces them. They have long been a favorite of the hobby designer, and have been an affordable alternative to the more expensive saltwater pearls. Because of their abundance, their affordability, and average lower qualities, freshwater pearls have held a lowly status among the gem-world of pearls. This status has now changed.
For the past half decade, we in the industry have been privy to one of the most extraordinary developments in the pearl market today. Freshwater pearls have morphed from fun, playful baubles, into gems of incredible stature. The best of them now not only rival the highest grade of their saltwater counterparts, they often transcend to a level never thought imaginable. As freshwater pearls are the only cultured pearls composed solidly of nacre today, they exude the fancied attributes of natural pearls from the days of old, and they will not discolor or wear out over time.
Freshwater pearls of the crème de la crème variety, to which I refer as ‘Freshadama’, are what I believe to be the world’s finest pearls. Not only do these pearls have the luster, shine, and shape of their saltwater cousins, they have something rarely seen in any pearl of cultured origin. They exhibit orient – the rare diffraction of light exuding from within the pearl, creating a soft prismatic glow that floats translucently on the surface. It is the beauty of pearl in its purest form.
The vast majority of consumers today have never seen freshwater pearls of this grade, and my answer is often met with bewilderment. “Freshwater pearls are still referred to as potato pearls and rice crispy pearls. How can a strand of these be superior to the famed Akoya, or the opulent South Sea?” they often challenge.
The surprising answer is that no more than just two years ago, they could not compare to their saltwater cousins. They would rarely exhibit the lustrous qualities of Akoya pearls, or the size and symmetrical perfection of South Sea. But today they can, and they do.
Gem quality, cultured freshwater pearls of this grade are still very rare today. Only a specialist is likely to carry them. They are sold under the trade name freshadama, or marketed under the quality grade “gem” – a grade never before associated with freshwater pearls in the past.
As a retailer and wholesaler of all types of pearls; including Akoya, Tahitian, South Sea, freshwater, and even natural, I can and certainly do appreciate them all. My job is to find and select the most beautiful of each variety. But as a connoisseur, I can only favor one above them all – the gem quality freshwater pearl.
PearlParadise.com is proud to offer a full line of ‘freshadama’ freshwater pearls at http://www.pearlparadise.com
Jeremy Shepherd is the president and founder of PearlParadise.com, Inc. A pearl purveyor for 10 years, his entrepreneurial success has been recognized The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, twice by Entrepreneur Magazine, and various other publications. http://www.pearlparadise.com