Fascinating Freshwater Cultivated Pearls

Waterhawk Creations shell bowl with pearls

Facebook icon          Instagram icon          Pinterest icon

Pearls "The Queen of Gems"

The Allure of pearls first came to Waterhawk Creations in the early 1990's when Don was visiting Key West in Florida. The luster, shapes and colors were so intriguing to him. They represented one of the gifts the Earth gave called "The Queen of Gems".  He thought if they can tolerate the temperature of the metal, how they will bring the Spirit of water to his work. Not knowing how pearls were cultivated and the value they played with in our world, he just used the energy they gave off to create his early works. 
Black pearl and ruby encrusted abalone shell by Waterhawk Creations
As the years flowed by our customers asked many questions about these gems and so research became key to be able to answer them. Pre-internet we were lucky to watch a brief excerpt in a documentary. The title or what the main subject was has been lost over the years but, we did learn that pearls had been "cultivated" by farmers and was fascinating to watch how they harvested them. That the history of pearls being an important commodity to us humans, dates back over 4000 years when it was recorded pearls were a gift to the Chinese Royalty in 2300 BC. (The History of Pearls | NOVA | PBS)

Freshwater cultivated pearls adorn a bottle
Cultivation of pearls on a large scale had only been mastered in that late 1800's by Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan and not perfected until the early 1900's. Before that pearls were found in natural "oyster" beds in the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India and what is now called Sri Lanka as well as in the Red Sea. These were salt water pearls and were more valued than Gold. In China pearl beds were found in rivers and ponds. And when Europeans first came to the "New" world the Native Peoples along the East coast were wearing pearls as adornments and jewelry. "Pearl Oysters" were found in the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers. The New World was deemed, due to the exporting of these pearls as the "Land of Pearls" (The History of Pearls | NOVA | PBS). The term "pearl oyster", commonly used in the pearl trade, is in fact incorrect cultivated pearl producing mollusks are not oysters. Though edible oysters can occasionally produce a pearl, they are of no commercial significance. (Pearl-Producing Mollusks (Molluscs) (pearl-guide.com))
Pearls freshwater and clam shell
Pearls grow in specific mollusks because a grain of sand or some other irritant found it's way into the mollusks causing discomfort for the critter inside.  A substance called Nacre, an organic-inorganic substance that creates the inner shell lining is used by the mollusks to cover the irritant. The majority of mollusks produce a porcellaneous, non-iridescent shine to the shell compared to the narceous iridescence of mollusks that create pearls. (Nacre - WikipediaMaking it even more rare, this Nacre is unique within the phylum Mollusca and only within the subphylum Conchifera. And within this subphylum Conchifera which has three classes that sometimes have Nacre, only three produce pearls and one subclass sometimes produce pearls. In other words mollusks that actually produce pearls is few. The color, shape and luster depends on the species, what is fed to the pearl beds, trace minerals in the water or some pearls have been irradiated. The only true "black" pearl comes from the Tahitian black lipped mollusk. (info gathered from Different Pearl Types & Colors | The Four Major Types of Cultured Pearls | GIA)
strands of freshwater pearls
Historically, after Mikimoto's fine tuning of grafting tissue from a donor mollusks into a pearl producing Mollusk to create round shaped pearls or implanting some foreign matter inside the mollusk, he along with two other men helped make Japan known as the first country to "cultivate" pearls. They used a 4 million year old fresh water lake named Biwa to create the pearl farms. (The History of Pearls | NOVA | PBS)
Pearl in a shell
In the mid 20th century an American named John Latendresse farmed pearls along a tributary off the Tennessee river known as the American Pearl Co. Mr. Latendresse created a technique that made the pearls grow into shapes. He called it Fancishapes and included coin, bar, teardrop, cabochons and triangles just to name a few. Presently the only pearl farm left in the USA is called the Tennessee River Pearl Farm and Museum (Tennessee River Pearls – Museum • Farm • Tour)
Today unfortunately over diving for sea pearls has reduced the beds that were available to those that have come before us. Making sea pearls invaluable. China is basically the only country farming pearls for consumer use. Producing about 1500 tons of freshwater cultivated pearls as of 2005. From all the pearls we see in the markets here in our part of the world, I imagine that number is much higher 16 years later.

The history of pearls stretch across time. Beloved in the ancient world and were only available to the ultra rich. Because of the work of several men in the mid 19th century into the mid 20th century, we have pearls that are affordable to most everyone. Yet they are still treasured and come in many different shapes and sizes.
Pearls and emeralds adorn the handle of a Damascus blade created by Don
Waterhawk Creations almost can't help ourselves from adorning our works with pearls. We look for pearls with unusual shapes, double and triple pearls fused together, coins and squares showing a variety of colors and sizes to reflect the piece they are inlayed on. The magic of these "Queen of Gems" shine their esteemed and cherished enchantments through the ages and still adorn our treasures today. Representing the transformation into purity. Depending on the color the metaphysical or magickal properties vary. Cleansing and the ease of discomfort bringing out the best within us. These are just a few of the attributes, you can do some research on your own to find out how pearls can help you on your personal journey. We have always believed it's up to each person on their own path to find the meaning of tools to aid in personal development. Here are some links that may further an understanding of pearls.
Facebook icon          Instagram icon          Pinterest icon
Don and Daniella Waterhawk
Don and Daniella Waterhawk's functional, whimsical and magickal art. 
Blending many of the Earths treasures and various materials, like wine glasses and shell bowls, with our exclusive creativity, we fulfill our vision of creating functional objects ’art. Striving to design pieces of art that will last to be handed down from one generation to the next.
We welcome you to comment with telling your story about pearls. 

Older Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published