West Tennessee Treasures - Camden - TN River Freshwater Pearl Museum

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The waters of Birdsong Creek on the Tennessee River hold a treasure.

"The pun is here," said Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum, Farm, and Tour owner Bob Keist. "The treasure, the state gem is the Tennessee freshwater pearl that's grown here."

Close to 100,000 washboard mussels raised at the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm grow the iridescent gem.

"A mussel can grow as many as ten pearls in one mussel. And the mussel that is native to the Tennessee River lives as long as 75 years," said Keist. "So when you start doing the numbers, they can really crank out a bunch of beautiful pearls."

The Freshwater Pearl Farm is the only one of it's kind in North America.

"Mr. Latendresse, who moved to Camden, married a Japanese woman and decided to try it here in the beautiful waters of Kentucky Lake here on Birdsong Creek," said Keist.

It was the only place that provided the right conditions for the cultivated pearl.

"We're in the middle of Kentucky Lake, and so our pearls that are grown on the Tennessee River are primarily more luscious because our waters are good, our waters are clean," said Keist.

Sitting on about three acres of clean water, the farm and harvest are a novelty of their own.

"The pearl is the only gem that comes from an animal that lives in the water," said Keist. "The pearl is kind of exclusive to the gem industry. Rubies, emeralds, diamonds, sapphires... and pearls."

For more information on the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum, Farm, and Tour, log onto


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