questionswho would like to school me on pearls?

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Briefly, freshwater pearls are as common as dirt, and do not possess the same beauty. I have multiple sets of pearls, most from the era before cultured pearls. Very few people are able to tell the difference between cultured pearls and natural, and the former are far less expensive.

There's more, but it's early (for me, at least).

I should add that natural saltwater pearls come only from Oysters, while cultured pearls may come from other mussels (and they may conveniently leave this information off the description).

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Also an important distinction is that the shellfish growing freshwater pearls are able to generate several at a time, while a saltwater pearl is one per oyster. Or so I hear. That's the explanation I have been given for the unround shape of freshwater pearls. When I was in China we went to a pearl farm and they showed us how they put minerals in the water to cause the pearls to have various colors. I make jewelry and I mostly use freshwater pearls for mixed media work. I actually love their unique shapes and see them as an asset. But when I am doing a simple classic pearl strand I use saltwater pearls, as that is the expected look for that style of necklace. I generally work with lower end, inexpensive pearls as I sell my work for very accessible prices ($25-35 for necklace and earrings) but even at the lower price points and in baroque shapes, pearls are quite beautiful. They have a richness and presence that I like much better than hard, shiny diamonds.

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Oops, ran out of space. I don't know where you'd go for high end pearls, I get the lower end baroque, keishi and round pearls I work with from EBay, and occasionally from gem, mineral and bead shows. I generally pay $1-3 for a 15-17" strand of freshwater pearls and around $5 for a 14" or so strand of saltwater pearls. I've gone through a couple hundred strands and I am rarely disappointed and frequently impressed with the pearls I get. These are just pearls on a string, they need to be re-strung with a clasp added. I have also bought a few pearl pendants on EBay, and have been happy with those as well. As to size, that's really a matter of personal taste. But personally, I think pearls are better understated than overstated. I wouldn't go over 8mm myself.

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ATC delivers good info. as always, thanks!

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I'll give you a pearl necklace (:

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I don't know why, but I find freshwater pearls more attractive. Must be my position in the lower caste.