My Freshwater Pearl Find

by Amy Holder
(Stillman Valley, IL)

1.5mm natural freshwater pearl found in Illinois

1.5mm natural freshwater pearl found in Illinois

Hello, love this site! I found this natural freshwater pearl in the bottom of my shell cleaning bucket after a day of shelling on my local river, the Rock River, a Mississippi tributary (some mussels are protected here from overharvesting for button trade, but we're careful on what we collect). It's a tiny 1.5mm, but has high irridescent luster. It's so rare to find one in the wild, I was elated. I'd love to have jewelry made, but it's so tiny! Still happy to have it at all. Thanks for letting me share! Amy Holder

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Nov 27, 2017
Q & A
by: Amy Holder

Hi Kari!

The main focus of my obsession is just the combing. Beachcombing and mudlarking, I love to look for things that wash up. My collection is eclectic at best. I love pretty shells and have lots of those, both freshwater and sea. I also have lots of sea glass, fossils, bones, crystals and rocks, but I pick up anything that catches my eyes. Besides this pearl, some of my more interesting finds include an old skeleton key, a womans victorian shoe, a liberty head nickel, old coke bottles, an old glass perfume stopper, a tiny charm of buddha playing the guitar, tin and shell buttons, and speaking of the clamming industry, just today I found an old homemade trawling hook, the kind that would've been attached (with 20 others) to a log to dredge the bottom and bring up the clams. I'm taking that to the local museum tomorrow.

As for mussel limit, I'm not sure. I don't live shell, but I rarely find any live ones anyways. The mussel population here never did recover after the button boom because the dam system was put in place shortly afterwards. It affected the migration of their host fish and the live population struggles to this day (I'm sure you know, most freshwater mussels require a host animal during the larval stage). I do know that with the 7 species that are protected it is even illegal to collect spent washed up shells, because there is no way to prove you didnt kill them yourself. I'm lucky to have 4 of those 7 species grandfathered into my collection as I collected those when I was a child, before such strict protection laws were passed.

Thanks for the interest! I love sharing. Amy

Nov 27, 2017
Happy Day!
by: Kari


I love your story and your little pearl. What a treasure! I hope you can think of something special to make out of it. Send us a photo when it finished. We can add it to your page.

Just curious? Why do you go shelling? To collect the shells? Eat the mussels? Just for fun? Looking for pearls? Bait for fishing?

Also, just curious again, here in Iowa there is a limit on number of mussels one can collect on one day. Is it the same there in Illinois?

Wow, what fun!

Thanks for sharing!

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