Soufflé Pearls

Soufflé pearls were a big draw at the AGTA show in Tucson this year. Moments after the show opened, the gem press lined up to have a look at the newest entry in the high-end Chinese freshwater cultured pearl market. Displaying beautiful colors and ranging in size from 13 to 20 millimeters, the pearls garnered the immediate attention of buyers.

Talk among pearl industry insiders exploded in the days leading up to the show because these attractive pearls hide a dirty secret-muck! Pond muck has been dried into spherical shapes and used for nucleation. After a cultured pearl is harvested, a dried muck bead is inserted in the existing pearl sac, creating a new kind of freshwater pearl.

These pearls do have a downside for those who must drill them. Because water seeps into the pearl sac, the resulting fluid trapped inside has an especially noxious smell. Those who have experience drilling baroque pearls will be familiar with this, but with soufflé pearls, it's worse. Fortunately, once they are drilled and washed out, there is no lingering scent to interfere with wearability.

See photos and learn more about Souffle pearls.

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