The Wonder 500

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349

Biwako Shinju (Biwako pearls)

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Biwako pearls are historic jewels, having been mentioned in Japan’s oldest collection of waka poems, the Manyoshu. However, at one time, the oyster species endemic to Lake Biwa was on the verge of extinction, and the number
of oyster farmers dwindled. Even today, the pearls are extremely rare, with only about several dozen kilograms worth making it to the market each year. No time or effort is spared in developing a thick nacre layer through a three- to five-year cultivation process. Since they reflect light in complex ways, the pearls give off unique hues, including purple, pink, white, orange, and gold. Not only “nucleus-free pearls” made from nacre alone, without the insertion of a nucleus, but also “nucleus pearls” have unique shapes, with no one pearl the same as another. Their shapes full of personality are used for decorations on jewelry such as rings, bracelets, and earrings, fascinating people with an elegant luster and a feel that deepens over time.
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