Fashionable, Affordable Freshwater Pearls

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a pearl junkie. There is just something about them: the luminous glow, all the gorgeous colors, the way they are classic and perfect with anything. There has never been a better time for creativity and affordability for pearls.

Amazon.com Freshwater Pearl, Citrine, Peridot, and Amythest Bracelet, $85 Retail

Amazon.com Freshwater Pearl, Citrine, Peridot, and Amythest Bracelet, $85 Retail

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are amazing for several reasons. They are available in a whole palate of sherbet-colored options, and they come in a huge range of millimeter size diameters as well as cool baroque and irregular shapes (check out some examples of the variety of colors and textures here). Best of all, they are very affordable, thanks to recent advances in cultivating.

Freshwater pearls are grown in mollusks in fresh water lagoons, lakes and rivers. While some freshwater pearls are grown in the US and Japan, by far the most prolific production comes from China. To grow the pearls, mantle tissue is inserted into the mollusk, then it starts to secret layers of nacre (pronounced nay-ker) to protect itself from the irritant. Freshwater pearls grow faster than Akoya pearls that are grown in colder saltwater, so the end result doesn’t take quite as long. It still takes about 2-7 years to grow a good quality freshwater pearl! Freshwater pearls will not generally have the mirror-like sheen that you can get with very fine quality Akoya pearls, and they will often be a tiny bit off-round if you measure carefully. But many can appear very round to the eye. I would recommend if you have several hundred dollars to spend on a strand, that you spend it on very high-quality freshwater pearls versus low-quality Akoya that would be in the same price range.

You can mimic a classic Akoya strand of pearls for a fraction of the cost, and still have great luster. This strand from Pearlparadise.com is a great value for an 18″ 6.0-7.0 mm classic strand of freshwater pearls when I compared strands online from Blue Nile, Amazon.com, Costco.com, PearlParadise.com, and ThePearlSource.com (I would have to see and compare in person to know the best quality for sure):

6.0-7.0mm AA Quality Freshwater Pearl 18inch Necklace from PearlParadise.com, $76 Retail

6.0-7.0mm AA Quality Freshwater Pearl 18inch Necklace from PearlParadise.com, $76 Retail

Here is a huge, luscious strand of big off-round white pearls for a more casual look. These pearls are big, incredibly lustrous and heavy–I own a 36+ inch rope of these:

18-inch 8.5 to 12.5mm Baroque Freshwater Pearls, $250 Retail

18-inch 8.5 to 12.5mm Baroque Freshwater Pearls, $250 Retail

I love this strand from Vivre.com, with its beautiful texture and the unexpected hue of the yellow citrine:

Freshwater Pearl and Citrine Sautoir from Vivre, 36 to 38 inches, $565 Retail

Freshwater Pearl and Citrine Sautoir from Vivre, 36 to 38 inches, $565 Retail

If minimalism is more your thing, these single pearls on delicate gold wire are pure and simple:

18kt and Pearl Earrings by Anne Sportun from Clay-Pot.com, $126 Retail

18kt and Pearl Earrings by Anne Sportun from Clay-Pot.com, $126 Retail

Pearls don’t have to be so precious. Here’s a fabulous example from AmericanPearl.com. The 23 peach, pink and white freshwater pearls can be moved around on the 2mm leather cord in any position you desire. I love how the leather funks it up a little. Oh, I want! (Note: if you love this idea, but the $375 tag is a little too much, this designer on Etsy.com has a great take on this idea for $39.99, just click here.)

St. Barth's Collection 55-inch Freshwater Pearl Necklace on Leather Cord, $375 Retail

St. Barth's Collection 55-inch Freshwater Pearl Necklace on Leather Cord, $375 Retail

For the ultimate freshwater pearl necklace, you should know about Schoeffel Pearls. This “Daylight” strand from Von Bargen’s features multi-hued pearls of spectacular quality and over 1.50 carats in diamonds. I have seen these necklaces in person (tried them on!), and they will truly make you weak in the knees:

Schoeffel Freshwater "Daylight" Necklace, $17,000 Retail

Schoeffel Freshwater Daylight Necklace, $17,000 Retail

So, how are you wearing your pearls this season?

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