A freshwater mollusk can produce up to 50 pearls but it is common practice to have them produce 24-32 pearls - that is still an awful lot of pearls! After the mollusks have tiny pieces of shell inserted, they, are then returned to their freshwater environment where they are tended for 2-6 years.
The resulting pearls are of solid nacre. Since they do not have a "bead" nucleus, the pearls are rarely perfectly round but are still lovely to use in jewelry!
I am Laura Teague, a metal smith, knitter and sewist living and working in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and traveling the western US whenever I can!