Feather pearls - very unusual freshwater pearls (now available as strands)
A small subcategory of freshwater pearls, feather pearls are priced within the range of non-nucleated second harvest pearls (Cfw keshi) but are incomparably less commonly available. We learned from Japan Kasumi farmer Kazuhisa Yanase that these pearls grow naturally near the mussel's hinge. At AGTA Tucson 2011, Gina Latendresse of American Pearl Co. displayed a variety of natural pearls, among them a feather pearl complete with the shell in which it grew... and into which it fit like a piece in a puzzle. We are intrigued by feather pearl shapes and curious about what causes them to grow, but they are remarkable only to those who look closely. Some fw pearl shapes occur naturally but are rarely found among cultivated pearls. This is probably because the process by which the pearl sacs are naturally formed has not been simulated in cultivation. The pearl sac's position within the mussel's body strongly influences the shape of the pearl that will grow in it. It seems likely that many naturally occurring pearl sacs are in places avoided by cultivators, whose objectives are regular shape (ie relative roundness) and size. Feather pearls are found near the mussel's hinge, far from cultivation areas.
Feather pearls have curious shapes, usually with longitudinal striations suggestive of linear motion. Many are pointed at one end, and long segments defined by those striations diminish in number near the points. Parts of feather pearl nacre typically appear like citrus fruit segments, creating a parallel line pattern reminiscent of feathers. This makes a surface texture as distinctive as rosebud effect, but feather pearls are not nearly as commonly available as rosebud pearls.
Processors of pearls from mature mussels that have been harvested offer several types of pearls not known to be cultivated. These include tiny size (less than 3mm) "seed" pearls, non-nacreous and semi-nacreous pearls as well as feather pearls. Many of the feather pearls shown here appear to come from large mussels ("kwong" type, incl. Cristaria plicata, used ca 1970-80 for pearl cultivation, yielding "rice crispies" in only 1 year), but feather pearls may occur in many varieties of mussels. They were known before pearl cultivation began. Natural pearls from species that are or have been under cultivation are classified with cultivated pearls. It cannot be proven what caused a pearl to grow; natural pearls are certified by determining that they grew in a species not known to be used successfully for pearl cultivation. It is not likely that feather pearls will become commonly available... and we recommend them as highly distinctive, de-facto natural pearls at a cultivated-pearl cost. We have seen feather pearls with certificates from Gubelin in Switzerland, but only at prices well into 5 digits of US dollars.
Pacific Pearls in USA caters to people for whom pearls' unusualness is important, and we strive to find the weirdest and most obscure pearls for your money. We have offered loose feather pearls since about a decade, and first assembled a strand in 2006. As of 2009, we are pleased to offer strands of feather pearls, both straight and eccentric-drilled, in white and pond-slime colors, as well as loose.