YES FRESHWATER PEARLS ARE REAL! Pearls are the ONLY gems formed and found in a living creature.
Wild/natural pearls are usually found by shellfish harvesters purely by accident, you could open over 10,000 oysters to find a single gem quality wild/natural pearl. That is what gives a wild/natural pearl its high price tag, not necessarily its beauty.
There is only a very small collectors market in wild/natural pearls, thats because a strand of wild/natural pearls can sell for upwards of $1 million dollars. All pearls bought and sold on the retail market today are cultured pearls, so unless your super wealthy cultured pearls are what you are looking for.
Cultured pearls are grown in a vareity of different shells and conditions at pearl farms located in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, China and other locations. Freshwater pearls come from mussels (Hyriopsis cumingii) that mature in a non saline water like lakes, rivers or ponds as opposed to saltwater from the sea.
Each mussell is surgically implanted with 24 to 32 pieces of mantle tissue, a process known as Nucleation. Once the tissue has been inserted a sac forms and cells begin secreting nacre, forming a pearl. They are then farmed between 2 to 5 years of age.
The wonderful colours you see in freshwater pearls are often assited by dye. Pearls whether saltwater or freshwater, come in a range of natural and dyed colours. The most common natural colour for pearls is white, cream or grey, but they also come in colours such as purple, black, pink, green, champagne, chocolate, blue and lavender. Some pearls have stunning overtones that exhibit multicolors.
Sizes typically range from 6-7mm up to 10mm but have been known to grow larger to 12mm in size, rarely.
Wash with mild soapy water and dry with a soft polishing cloth to restore lusture.