I know many of you might be wondering… What is a keshi pearl? I am so excited to share more about these uniquely amazing pearls with you! But, first, here is a look at a couple of The Pearl Girls designs with Keshi pearls.
The Flashy Splashy Earrings and Necklace offer a 9-10mm keshi pearl paired with a cz, for a pearl pop of bling!
And the Keshi Kickback Earrings featuring cornflake style Keshi pearls paired with 5mm white pearls on sterling silver stud posts.
What’s In a Name?
The word keshi comes from keshinomi, the Japanese word for poppy seed. These are very unique pearls that can be hard to describe. They come in unique shapes and sizes but they are not baroque pearls. Sometimes they look bit flat, other times a bit fat and otherwise they can have an almost wavy like surface texture.
They are 100% pearl…all nacre and no nucleus.
The name keshi originated in Japan to specifically describe small pearls formed by loose tissue in akoya oysters. Akoya oysters are small, the pearls they produce are in the 5mm – 8mm range, so the keshis were even smaller, sometimes minuscule, just like a poppy seed! Nowadays, the term keshi has a broader meaning.
The term still describes the pearls produced by loose tissue pieces and lacking a nucleus, but keshis can be a variety of sizes and come from any mollusk, not just akoyas!
Where Do They Come From?
Keshi pearls can come from everywhere! There are Tahitian keshis, South Sea keshis, freshwater keshis and more. Anywhere in the world that is culturing pearls can produce a keshi pearl. But, there is something funny about keshis. Even though keshis are produced at cultured pearls farms, they are not cultured pearls! Keshis are in a class all their own. When I traveled to The Philippines, I harvested a Golden South Sea keshi!
How Are Keshis Formed?
In a cultured pearl farm, an oyster is nucleated with a piece of tissue and a bead. Out of this combination, a pearl sac is formed and the bead serves as the nucleus of the cultured pearl. If the mollusk expels the bead, or the tissue piece and bead separate, nacre will not form around the bead, and the loose tissue piece might produce a keshi pearl instead.
This is what makes keshis unique, they are formed without a nucleus. The formation of keshis can be accidental or on purpose! Since there is no nucleus inside of a keshi pearl, and they can form accidentally, this causes some people to mistakenly call them natural pearls.
However, it is a mistake to call them natural pearls. They are also not cultured pearls. Cultured pearls, by definition, are pearls which are formed due to human intervention. Although humans do not always instigate the formation of Keshi pearls, without the cultured pearl industry, keshis would not exist.
In China some pearl farmers attempt to create a second harvest of pearls. Second harvests are common in saltwater productions as well. But, in freshwater Chinese harvests, it is more difficult because many of the mollusks die when the first pearls are harvested. But, let’s say, the mollusk survives and farmers want to nucleate the mollusk a second time.
One mollusks has multiple pearl sacs and the Chinese farmers have many pearl producing options. Farmers may renucleate the mollusk with a coin shape bead, therefore making a coin pearl. These, again, may resemble the flat look of keshis but they have a bead nucleus.
Here is a strand of coin pearls, different from keshis.
And this is what the nucleus of these coin pearls looks like carved from mother of pearl shell.
This is also where the matchstick pearls come from, and even the flat pearls. Again, not keshis.
And here is a closer look at the nucleus of these matchstick pearls.
Now, sometimes farmers do not renucleate the mollusk with special shapes. Sometimes, they simply place another piece of tissue is the pearl sac of the mollusk. I have even heard that sometimes these pearls simply grow within the pearl sac, without adding an additional piece of mantle tissue!
No matter how farmers choose to renucleate their mussels, if they renucleate without a nucleus, people call the resulting pearls a keshi pearl.
Keshis are absolutely stunning pearls, different and unique; they are full of texture and have a great range of tones. Essentially, keshis are unique pearls with all nacre! They possess all of the gorgeous pearl making material and nothing else! No nucleus, bead or shape!
Although keshis are not always abundant in the marketplace, they are a gorgeous pearl to add to your collection! Shop The Pearl Girls Keshi Pearls!
I am a modern day treasure hunter who travels the world for gorgeous pearls and amazing adventures. I own a pearl jewelry and jewelry repair business, ThePearlGirls.com, with a cute retail store in Athens, GA.