Although most people think of the traditional white, round gemstone when they hear the word “pearl,” the truth is that pearls come in all shapes, sizes and colors. One of the most interesting pearls in recent decades is the so-called “rice krispy” freshwater pearl.
Freshwater cultivated pearls are the gorgeous child of the innovation of humans and the wonder of nature. Pearl farmers around the world, (practiced today primarily in China), began a nucleation process in which freshwater mussels are implanted with a bead, or a piece of shell, or some other irritant, resulting in the creation of a gem from the mussel’s nacre.
Classic “rice krispy” pearls are referred to as such because in nature, the freshwater pearls were found in clusters in small, strange shapes within the freshwater mussels. These pearls gained this descriptive name because they were small, flat and wrinkled. Also, because they grew in clusters they were much cheaper than traditional pearls.
As the Chinese pearl farmers improved upon their practices, their pearls began to stray from the “rice krispy” shape and began to resemble traditional, natural pearls. These improvements resulted in China becoming the world’s largest producer of freshwater pearls today.
Although Rice Krispy pearls declined in popularity due to being seen as a cheap, inferior product, these pearls still have their supporters. Pearl collectors are interested in rice krispy pieces because of their vintage quality, and the fact that their shape and texture make them unique. But regardless of your opinion of their beauty, the fact remains that rice krispy pearls serve as a reminder of how far the pearl industry has come in just a few short decades.