Freshwater cultured pearls are a result of a productive relationship between human beings and nature. Almost all of the farms that grow freshwater pearls are in the waterways of Zhejiang province in China. Officially they are called Freshwater Cultured Pearls because the growth of the pearl is purposely initiated by human beings using a process called Grafting.
The pearls grow inside the Triangle Shell Mussel over a period of 1 to 8 years. After grafting, the mussels are returned to the lake and are suspended in nets from floats, usually empty green soda bottles, in a lake with especially clean water and
the particular environmental factors that facilitate the health of the mussel and the growth of the pearls. Water quality is constantly monitored and protected in these lakes and rivers. The science behind growing these freshwater pearls has developed over the past 5 decades and is constantly improving.
The longer the mussel is allowed to grow the pearls the larger, brighter, more lustrous and harder they become. Most pearl farmers and companies harvest their pearls after 1-2 years. Unique Pearls only harvests their pearls after 3 to 8 years.
Once the mussels are harvested from the lake they are washed in open areas. After washing they are split open and the pearls and the tissue of the mussel are scraped into pans and are then separated. The mussel tissue itself is allowed to dry in the open air and is then sold for fertilizer to farmers. The mussel shells are dried in open areas so that they can then be polished to a beautiful sheen, sometimes with pearls still embedded in the inner shell.
The pearls are cleaned in large vats with fresh water to remove any remaining mussel tissue and dirt. After this the pearls are cleaned and then polished with a mixture of cornmeal or wheat kernels and wax. Then the pearls are sorted according to quality for the first time. The lower quality pearls may be soaked in a warm and cold chemical solution and then bleached. Higher quality pearls, like the ones that Unique uses, are never dyed or bleached.
This is a multi-step process and very tedious. Well trained pearl sorters examine every single pearl and judge it according to the 5 S rules. The pearls are separated during this examination process. After the pearls are sorted they are individually and carefully drilled. Then they are strung on temporary strands called hanks. The hanks are then laid out or hung up for display to buyers. The hanks are also the way the pearls are shipped to customers all over the world.
Even though all the pearls from Unique’s exclusive supplier are only the highest grade, once the hanks of pearls arrive at Unique’s design center they are again examined individually for the 5 S’, then graded and sorted accordingly by Unique’s owner, Dinija Lora. The very highest quality pearls are set aside for Unique’s Luxury Line and special products. All the rest of these beautiful freshwater pearls are sorted according to how they will be incorporated into Unique’s outstanding designs.