Lake Biwa near Kyoto in Japan was the home once of a thriving freshwater pearl industry.Nowadays the name is often slapped onto thin stick pearls (erroneously)
I have a regular customer/correspondant, Andrew. He teaches classes in Rasa Shastra -making medicines using, amongst other things, powdered pearls. Which is where Pearlescence comes in, obviously. We supply him regularly with both pearl powder from drilling and whole pearls for crushing.
Now a week or so ago I got an excited email from Andrew while he was in Japan, up near Kyoto. Would I be interested in some pearls which apparently were genuine Lake Biwa pearls. Lake Biwa was the centre of the Japanese freshwater pearl industry almost 100 years ago but the farms closed as the lake got hopelessly polluted, too dirty for its own species of freshwater mussel to survive.
Andrew had found the proverbial little old shop which, in a dusty corner, had some pearls which were said to be genuine Biwas.
recently the term Biwa has been slapped onto stick pearls. Stick pearls were produced but mainly production was of small, lustrous freeform pearls. Now these pearls have a slighly silky lustre. Andrew could get no clear paperwork provenance, but these certainly don’t have the look of Chinese freshwaters or of European river pearls. Their lustre is noticeably silky and they have a very clean surface, albeit not particularly regular. Sizes range between 6mm (not many) down to 1mm. they’re white with a rainbow orient.
Now please note I am not saying for certain that these are Biwa pearls, just that there is a strong likelihood.
(I’m not going to drill the 1mm ones either)