India and The Pearl Diver

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Here is India and the pearl diver who works on the Tennessee River collecting shells and pearls! India is the Founder of The Pearl Girls and is thrilled to launch her All-American Pearl Collection in 2014 and tell Bruce’s story of 30 years of diving for pearls on the Tennessee River. It is an exciting tale of true American heritage!

India and the Pearl Diver Bruce

India and the Pearl Diver Tennessee River Pearls

India and the Pearl Diver More Tennessee River Pearls

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 the by products of this mussel collection is the discovery of natural pearls. You see, just like oysters in the ocean, freshwater mussels get invaded with irritants or microorganisms that make them spontaneously produce pearls.

I got a chance to meet Bruce and he still has the pearls from 30 years of diving. Many other divers have also held onto these unique treasures.

Although Bruce admits that the demand for shells has gone down considerably, his passion for diving in the Tennessee River is as strong as ever. He is not as active with diving but his brother, Kenneth, dives almost daily. Together with Bruce and Kenneth, I am launching The Pearl Girls All American Pearls to show these wonderful, American treasures to the world. I also am very fond of Deb, Bruce’s wife, who has stuck by Bruce through these years of diving and working in the shell business.

India with Bruce and wife Deb

Pearl Diver Bruce with wife Deb

During one of our meetings, Bruce showed me something truly amazing. In the last 18 months of diving, his brother Kenneth  has only found this:

3 pearls from the pearl diver


One mussel with three pearls. It shows you how truly rare these American pearls are!

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