bi·wa pearl | ˈbē-(ˌ)wä ˈpər(-ə)l
A freshwater, cultured pearl from Japan
Biwa pearls are freshwater pearls that are naturally found in Biwa pearl mussels. This species of mussels grows in Lake Biwa, near the city of Kyoto on the Honshu island of Japan. Lake Biwa is the largest and most ancient lake in all of Japan. While Biwa pearls were extremely popular and harvested in surplus during the 20th century, today, pollution in Lake Biwa has virtually ended the harvesting of them in present times. During peak production of these freshwater Japanese pearls in 1971, Biwa pearl farmers produced an astounding six tons of cultured Biwa pearls. In attempts to replicate the success and popularity of Biwa pearls, Japanese pearl farmers cultured a hybrid pearl mussel, which was a cross between the Biwa pearl mussel and a Chinese species, Hyriopsis cumingi, which was found in China’s Lake Kasumigaura. Unfortunately, pollution has disrupted the cultivation of these hybrid pearls as well.