Pearl Information


Freshwater Pearl History Video

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What are Freshwater Pearls?

All pearls, freshwater or saltwater are grown, or "farmed" as they say in the pearl industry. These beautiful, precious stones actually began as living organisms in the form of mussels and oysters that lived in oceans, lakes and rivers. While the history of pearls goes back thousands of years, pearl cultivation began in the early 1900's in Japan, which was the beginning of saltwater pearl cultivation. The freshwater pearl industry became meaningful in the 1960's and 1970's, and due to improvements in how pearls are grown, freshwater pearls have become staples of luxurious and beautiful jewelry.

The soft tissue of a freshwater mollusk produces the harder object we know as a pearl. The pearl is made up of calcium carbonate layered in concentric deposits. These deposits harden over time and produce pearls of many shapes and sizes.

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How are Freshwater Pearls Grown?

It all starts with a mollusk. Mollusks are large invertebrate, marine animals. They comprise about one fourth of all marine organisms. Beads and mantle tissue are inserted into the mollusk and the growth process begins. As pearl cultivation evolved, pearl farmers learned how to grow pearls without bead nucleus. This discovery improved the freshwater pearl cultivation process and has become the favored approach. However, the quality, shape and size of pearls grown without bead nucleus are left to chance. On the most part, Japan has dominated the saltwater pearl development industry, while China has become the center for freshwater pearl cultivation.

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Pearls of All Kinds

While most of the pearls we see today are farmed either in freshwater or saltwater using the process described earlier, some pearls still occur naturally. These pearls are called "natural pearls", are extremely rare and not surprisingly, very pricey. On the other side of the pearl spectrum are "fake pearls". These are widely used to create inexpensive jewelry. Their quality is usually very poor and a good eye can easily tell the difference.

Dragon King Pearls are all AAA Quality Rated – the Highest Rating Possible

Rest assured, the only pearls you will receive from Dragon King Pearls are genuine, AAA rated pearls, the highest rating possible. AAA rating means the pearl is virtually flawless. It has high luster and at least 95% of the surface is defect free.

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Freshwater Pearls vs. Saltwater Pearls

To the typical consumer, the biggest difference between freshwater and saltwater pearls is the type of luster. A softer luster that comes from deep inside the pearl is indicative of a freshwater pearl, whereas a saltwater pearl might have a more brilliant, superficial glow. However, the difference in luster between freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls has become almost negligible due to more recent improvements in freshwater pearl farming techniques. The deep luster that describes the more contemporary freshwater pearls results from the use of thicker nacre in the pearl farming process.

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Freshwater Pearls

As the term describes, freshwater pearls are grown in fresh water environments like lakes, rivers and ponds. Freshwater pearls begin with a "bead" or mantle around which a mollusk forms layers of nacre that harden over time. Freshwater pearls start as virtually nothing and because of this are essentially all nacre and can be grown in a more predictable manner for shape and size. This produces a more durable pearl. The farming of a freshwater pearl is very close to the natural growth of a pearl. Growing a freshwater pearl takes between 4 to 6 years, and a successful freshwater harvest is a highly celebrated and recognized event.

Freshwater pearl cultivation methods have improved significantly over time and a AAA rated (top rating for pearls) freshwater pearl is very comparable to saltwater, or Akoya, pearls, and in some cases exceed saltwater pearl quality.

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Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls are commonly referred to as Akoya pearls, and originate in Japan. As the terms describes, saltwater pearls are grown in the ocean mostly along the coast of Japan. Saltwater pearls are grown in a similar way their freshwater rivals – mollusks, beads, nacre and the rest. However, saltwater pearl growth occurs in about a fourth of the time as freshwater pearls. Even though the length of time to grow a saltwater pearl is much less, the volatility of the ocean environment often causes issues and significant price fluctuations for saltwater pearls.

Since freshwater pearls are grown in more controlled marine environments, many freshwater pearl farms are man-made and result in a very manageable natural environment that can produce very high quality pearls. Consequently, in more recent years freshwater pearls have become comparable to the luster and quality of their saltwater rivals.

Dragon King Pearls are all AAA Quality Rated Freshwater Pearls

Because the freshwater pearls farming process is more predictable and capable of producing very high quality pearls, Dragon King Pearls has chosen to sell only the highest rated (AAA Rated only) freshwater pearl jewelry at very attractive prices.

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Freshwater Pearls – A 4,000 Year History of Pearls

History refers to "pearls" as far back as 4,000 BC. It is hard to really determine if the reference to "pearls" going back that far is comparable to the current use of the term, but suffice it to say that pearls have a very rich and long history. It is believed that pearls as we know them today may have gotten their start about 2,500 years ago. Pearls are amongst the oldest and most universal of all gems. They are the oldest jewels known to man, and the only gem made by a living being – a human. Throughout history, pearls were symbolic of purity, chastity and feminine charm. In any case, pearls have stood the test of time as a prized possession for royalty as well as a family heirloom that can be passed from generation to generation.

The first references to "pearls" are associated with "mother-of-pearls", which is a composite material produced by some mollusks. This is commonly referred to as "nacre", the natural material that grows and becomes the pearl. One can find references to pearls and/or mother- of-pearls in the Bible, the Koran, and the many sacred readings of other cultures and religions. There are stories of pearls and pearl jewelry dating back to the first written historical documents. Arabians valued pearls that were acquired from the Persian Gulf. There are stories about pearls during Cleopatra's days during the Roman Empire. The ancient Greeks valued pearls and used them at weddings and other prized events. Back in these times, the art and science of pearl farming and cultivation had yet been discovered, and the pearls referenced in antiquity were among the most valued of possessions – natural pearls.

The Christian era saw the continued popularity of pearls. When Constantinople became the most important center of the world's wealth, the intersection of a good source of pearls and the people who wanted them caused pearl jewelry to remain a very popular item. A sabbatical of sort for the pearl industry occurred with the discovery of gold in South America during the 1700's, and demand re-surfaced as a result of discovering new sources of pearls.

Coming closer to home, mother-of-pearl was exported to the original colonies. It was used to make buttons. But pearls and pearl jewelry as we know them today really gained prominence when Japanese researchers discovered methods to grow pearls and Kokichi Mikimoto successfully marketed the product. Pearl "culturing" got its start and pearl jewelry was produced and marketed worldwide. Today, due to pearl farming and growing techniques, this high quality, beautiful product has become available to virtually anyone worldwide.

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Pearl Quality

The development and continued improvement of pearl farming and growing methods have resulted in a wide variety of pearls and quality on the market. Just like other precious stones and materials, pearls have a grading system, although there is no industry-wide, universally accepted system. The two most common pearl grading methods are the AAA-A and the A-D.

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AAA-A Grading System

Considered by many as the most common pearls grading method, the AAA-A method is comprised and defined as follows:

  • AAA – This is the highest rating and the pearl is considered virtually flawless. Surface luster will be very high and is at least 95% defect free. Round to near round to the eye
  • AA – Surface luster will remain very high (probably slightly less luster than AAA rated pearls) and the surface will be at least 75% defect free. Near round to off round
  • A - This is the lowest rating. Surface luster will be visibly lower and is at least 25% free of defects. Near round to off round

A consumer may find pearls stating degrees of these ratings, like AA+ or AAA-. This should be considered more of a marketing pitch than anything else. It is simply a way to make something not as good sound better. Don't buy it. The AAA-A rating system is the most standard and degrees with the three ratings are indistinguishable.

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A-D Grading System

This is a lesser known method and primarily used in French Polynesia as a grading method for Tahitian and South Sea pearls only. Some refer to it as the "Tahitian system." The A-D method is comprised and defined as follows:

  • A - This is the highest rating. The pearl is considered very high quality with very high luster and luster surface that is at least 90% defect free.
  • B – A "B" rated pearl is high or medium luster and the surface is at least 70% free of any defects.
  • C – Pearl has moderate luster and the surface is at least 40% free of any defects.
  • D – "D" rated pearls have the following characteristics:
    • Pearl has some slight, but no deep, defects spread over 60% of the surface, or
    • Some deep defects over no more than 60% of its surface, or

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Nacre Thickness

Nacre is the organic material that becomes the pearl itself. The thicker the nacre, the more durable the pearl. While it is difficult to define nacre thickness, the A-D Grading System sets minimum nacre thickness at 0.8 millimeters.

Dragon King Pearls - all AAA Quality Rated with greater than 0.8 millimeter nacre thickness

Rest assured, the only pearls you will receive from Dragon King Pearls are genuine, AAA rated pearls, the highest rating possible.

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Caring and Storing Your Pearls

The pearls you purchase from Dragon King Pearls are all AAA rated, the highest industry rating possible, and have nacre thickness of at least 0.8 millimeters, a minimum standard for top quality pearls. The depth of the nacre coating depends on the type of creature involved, the water it lives in, and how long the intruder is left in place before it is removed. As nacre thickness increases, so does the quality and durability of the pearl. Nacre is the organic material that becomes the pearl itself. The thicker the nacre, the stronger and more durable the pearl.

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Caring for Your Pearls

Freshwater pearls tend to be more fragile than other gemstones so they should be handled with care to maintain their beauty.

  • Avoid getting hand soap, body creams and make up on the pearl stones.
  • Use a slightly damp, lint-free cloth to wipe off your pearls.
  • Use a mild soap and water to clean pearls.
  • Avoid harsh detergents and products containing ammonia when cleaning pearls.
  • Avoid ultrasonic and abrasive cleaners, and abrasive cloths as you run the risk of wearying away some of the pearl's natural luster.
  • Pearls should be put on after the application of make-up, perfume & hairspray

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Storing Pearls

  • Don't store damp or wet pearls in a container. Let them dry first.
  • Don't store them with other jewelry as the surface might be harmed by rubbing up against other stones or metals. Consider keeping them is a soft, velvety bag.
  • Pearl necklaces and bracelets, due to the very nature of how they are worn, should periodically re-strung.

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Necklace Lengths


15” – Choker

Great length for both business and casual. Falls perfectly around base of the neck. This choker length also works for children.


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Pearl Sizes

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