The other areas of the world in which freshwater pearls are cultured include Japan and the US. In Japan, freshwater pearl production began in the 1930s in Lake Biwa, a large lake near Kyoto. The quality of these pearls was very high, and they eventually became the standard for pearl jewelry. They became commonly known as “Biwas”. Unfortunately, in the mid 1980s, encroaching shoreline development and pollution doomed this enterprise. Today, Japan’s freshwater production comes from Lake Kasumiguara. One farmer from this lake even engineered a hybrid mussel that is both pollution resistant and anatomically able to accept a round bead.
There are nearly 300 species of mussels in the USA. Most of them are located along the Mississippi River. After years of pearl farms coming and going since the 1950s, only the American Pearl Company remains. John Latendresse is the founder of this company, who began experimentation on mussels in the mid 1980s. Their pearls are grown in Tennessee and have white or gray colors. Some have described them as “silvery”. Overtones have included rose or blue at times. These American made cultured pearls are not bleached, dyed, or irradiated.