Toe Digging

American Pearls

Toe digging for mussel shells. Sometimes it is not about putting on diving gear and braving the cold waters of the Tennessee River to search for mussel shells. Sometimes the work can be done from the waste down by toe digging. Toe digging is just what it sounds like… digging your toes in the soft, […]


American Pearls

Introducing All-American Pearls by The Pearl Girls! Years ago, the Tennessee River was the hub for mussel shell businesses. Divers would spend all day in the cold Tennessee River collecting shells which were then exported to Australia, Japan, China and other exotic locations for use in the cultured pearl industry. Although incredibly rare, one of […]

Mussel Camp

American Pearls, Natural Pearls

Mussel camp… Imagine.. in the mid-1950s there were probably 300 working mussel boats on the Tennessee River. These boats collected mussels to use in the button or pearl industries. So, what do brailers, divers and other toe-diggers do with the mussels they harvest? They take them to camp… mussel camp. These odorous camps are set […]