Fine quality nucleated Chinese freshwater pearls have earned widespread consumer appeal as one of the fastest growing sectors in the gem trade. However, visual similarity of these pearls to the once dominant seawater varieties like Akoya and South Sea have created some challenges for buyers, sellers and appraisal professionals whose responsibility is to accurately grade and price pearl products for their clients. Mass production of Chinese freshwater pearls has been the norm for decades, with the period from the 1990s to the present being particularly important to China’s current position in the pearl market. The Chinese have consistently produced between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of cultured pearls annually since the mid-1990s. The majority of these sell for less than $50 per strand. Although many still equate Chinese freshwater cultured pearls as inexpensive because of the $10 to $20 per strand price points for the low-end material, the reality is that popular varieties such as standard baroques, fireballs, petals and wings have established the freshwater product as a strong competitor in the market. The biggest hit in the freshwater cultured pearl production is the large, round, and nucleated varieties, also marketed as Edison pearls. They were introduced to the market less than a decade ago in small quantities. The early editions were limited in their color range. In recent years, the availability of these round, lustrous pearls increased as did the color palette they exhibit. Chinese freshwater cultured pearl manufacturers point out that the success in producing this particular variety has to do with the cross breeding of different species of mussels. The production initially started with what would become known as “fireball” pearls. The name was inspired by the large baroque shape with their tails...
Fine quality nucleated Chinese freshwater pearls have earned widespread consumer appeal as one of the fastest growing sectors in the gem trade. However, visual similarity of these pearls to the once dominant seawater varieties like Akoya and South Sea have created some challenges for buyers, sellers and appraisal professionals whose responsibility is to accurately grade and price pearl products for their clients. Mass production of Chinese freshwater pearls has been the norm for decades, with the period from the 1990s to the present being particularly important to China’s current position in the pearl market. The Chinese have consistently produced between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of cultured pearls annually since the mid-1990s. The majority of these sell for less than $50 per strand. Although many still equate Chinese freshwater cultured pearls as inexpensive because of the $10 to $20 per strand price points for the low-end material, the reality is that popular varieties such as standard baroques, fireballs, petals and wings have established the freshwater product as a strong competitor in the market. The biggest hit in the freshwater cultured pearl production is the large, round, and nucleated varieties, also marketed as Edison pearls. They were introduced to the market less than a decade ago in small quantities. The early editions were limited in their color range. In recent years, the availability of these round, lustrous pearls increased as did the color palette they exhibit. Chinese freshwater cultured pearl manufacturers point out that the success in producing this particular variety has to do with the cross breeding of different species of mussels. The production initially started with what would become known as “fireball” pearls. The name was inspired by the large baroque shape with their tails...

Large Bead Nucleated Round Freshwater Cultured Pearls, A.K.A. Edison Pearls

Posted on March 1, 2019 by Çigdem Lüle, PhD., FGA, GIA GG, DGA

Fine quality nucleated Chinese freshwater pearls have earned widespread consumer appeal as one of the fastest growing sectors in the gem trade. However, visual similarity of these pearls to the once dominant seawater varieties like Akoya and South Sea have created some challenges for buyers, sellers and appraisal professionals whose responsibility is to accurately grade and price pearl products for their clients. Mass production of Chinese freshwater pearls has been the norm for decades, with the period from the 1990s to the present being particularly important to China’s current position in the pearl market. The Chinese have consistently produced between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of cultured pearls annually since the mid-1990s. The majority of these sell for less than $50 per strand. Although many still equate Chinese freshwater cultured pearls as inexpensive because of the $10 to $20 per strand price points for the low-end material, the reality is that popular varieties such as standard baroques, fireballs, petals and wings have established the freshwater product as a strong competitor in the market. The biggest hit in the freshwater cultured pearl production is the large, round, and nucleated varieties, also marketed as Edison pearls. They were introduced to the market less than a decade ago in small quantities. The early editions were limited in their color range. In recent years, the availability of these round, lustrous pearls increased as did the color palette they exhibit. Chinese freshwater cultured pearl manufacturers point out that the success in producing this particular variety has to do with the cross breeding of different species of mussels. The production initially started with what would become known as “fireball” pearls. The name was inspired by the large baroque shape with their tails...

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