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Freshwater pearls cover a wider range of colors and shapes than any other pearl type.
Originally these pearls were marketed as a lower quality, inexpensive alternative to Akoya pearls. For this reason, jewelry designers traditionally used freshwater pearls for pieces that favored design over the gems themselves.
However, since the 1990s, a class of freshwater pearls that are round and lustrous have emerged which rival Akoya pearls in both quality and value. Today China is the only commercial producer of freshwater pearls.