Feature Gems & Gemology, Summer 2001, Volume 37, No. 2

The Current Status of Chinese Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Chinese freshwater cultured pearls (FWCPs) are assuming a growing role at major gem and jewelry fairs, and in the market at large. Yet, it is difficult to obtain hard information on such topics as quantities produced, in what qualities, and the culturing techniques used because pearl culturing in China covers such a broad area, with thousands of individual farms, and a variety of culturing techniques are used. This article reports on recent visits by two of the authors (SA and LTZ) to Chinese pearl farms in Hanzhou Province to investigate the latest pearl-culturing techniques being used there, both in tissue nucleation and, much less commonly, bead (typically shell but also wax) nucleation. With improved techniques, using younger Hyriopsis Cumingi mussels, pearl culturers are producing freshwater cultured pearls in a variety of attractive colors that are larger, rounder, and with better luster. Tissue-nucleated FWCPs can be separated from natural and bead-nucleated cultured pearls with X-radiography.