The Story of American River Pearls
Art of the River
Nadine Ifrah Leo is the owner and founder of The Mississippi River Pearl Jewelry, Co. LLC, which she founded in 1982. She has traveled all the American Rivers for over 35 years collecting some of the rarest pearls in the world, and now owns the largest collection of Mississippi River Pearls.
Natural American pearls are among the oldest and rarest of universal gems. These pearls are found in many different species of mussels in our American rivers and lakes. The Mississippi River is known to have gifted the world with some of the rarest of gems. We have personally sold pearls to the Royal Family in England. One drop pearl was used in the Queen Mother’s brooch, another for Queen Elizabeth and one of the largest button pearls ever acquired by our company was used in Princess Diana’s ring. We also supply some of the finest jewelers in the world, many other Royal families, and private collectors through Christies and Bonhams.
Pearls, like many gems come in a variety of colors, white being the most common. Other colors, gold, pink, cream, blue, purple and green are very rare. Different locations in the shell form the variety of shapes. Those along the lip are round and the largest ones are the rarest. Wing shaped pearls form along the back of the shell and irregular or “baroque” pearls form in the heel of the shell. The brighter the luster, the more valuable it makes the pearl. A good sized baroque pearl will occur every one hundred to two hundred clams while a good sized natural round pearl occurs only about once in 25 to 50 thousand clams. The harvest of these beautiful natural pearls has been largely shut down on most American Rivers due to the invasion of Zebra Mussels from Europe. Consequently these natural pearls will become more rare and valuable as time goes on. We create a new collection every year with these pearls and American gemstones in both gold and silver.
Nadine and her daughter Maya Nelson (graduate of Arizona State University) specialize in designing jewelry with these beautiful gems. Nadine has shown her work in the top galleries from New York to Santa Fe.
Nadine is a graduate of Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and a graduate of Les Art Appliques from Paris. She is an accomplished artist, painter, and she also sculpts and does pottery. She has studied with some of the most famous living artists and frequently paints with them. Her art embraces the river flowers and western paintings with cowboys and historical Native Americans.
The journey from idea to treasure is our passion!