The Story Behind the Stone: Kasumiga Pearls - nearly extinct before they’re famous

Avid consumer demand for all kinds of pearl jewelry has propelled pearl farmers to develop ever new pearl varieties from numerous mollusks in fresh and saltwater around the world.

One glamorous type of freshwater pearl is the Kasumiga. Haven’t heard of it you say? Not surprising. This lustrous baroque and round pearl variety is under threat of demise before it’s become a major contender in the trade. Those who know about these luminescent orbs sing their praises.

Kasumiga Pearls are produced in both white spherical and deep purplish bronze baroque shapes. Photo courtesy of Kristen Jones, Queen Bijoux.
Kasumiga pearls, an exotic gem are certainly not a household name, but they do offer consumers a rare variety to consider. Freshwater pearl farming in Lake Biwa, Japan was once a thriving business, but nearly succumbed to extinction by pollution in the 1970s. The Japanese resurrected the industry in Lake Kasumigaura over a decade ago, by bead nucleating local mussels; however pollution threatens the niche industry there too. Today there are a few specialty suppliers of this beautiful pearl. And while the supply is limited, Kasumiga pearls enjoy ardent devotees.

Vancouver, B.C. designer Kristen Jones, of Queen Bijoux, is always on the lookout for the unusual in gems. “The newest things I have fallen in love with,” Jones confesses, “are the Kasumiga freshwater pearls from Japan. These pearls come in quite a range from spherical white to baroques in a purple-bronzy luster.”

It’s actually their asymmetrical form that goads her inspiration. “I work with the shape of the pearl and use the irregularities to their best advantage. I love wrapping vine tendrils and leaves around the little bumps and lumps in a baroque pearl. I make flower bracts to cap drop pearls.”

Many of Jones clients are pearl collectors, so they rely on her to add something new and exciting to their collections. They have the basic pearl strand and studs, but as Jones points out, “They have never seen these huge baroque Kasumiga pearls. The size and iridescence on these pearls is unbelievable. I love to see how their eyes light up when I show off my newest acquisitions.”

Unusual pearl varieties like the Kasumiga require designers to double as a teacher. “A lot of educating goes along with designing in pearls. I am happy to talk with people about where in the world they come from and how they are farmed,” Jones offers. “They feel confident in their choice once they have some knowledge,” she says.

A Kasumiga pearl might be just the solution to jump start sluggish pearl sales in your business. They are an exotic pearl with a limited supply. And that entices collectors to add this variety to their jewel box. No one wants what everyone else wears. And like Tanzanite, a one source gem with apparently a finite supply, jewelry lovers will possibly be yearning for Kasumiga pearls some day when there are few if any available.

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is also a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, various online outlets, and for sightholders and other industry leaders.. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website,, and/or follow her on FaceBook and Twitter (Loupey).