Arkansas Pearls…and a Pearl Stringing Workshop

Kimberly J. Williams

Not only are pearls beautiful, but they also play a part in our state’s history. A 14-grain pinkish pearl was found in a mussel in the Black River in 1897 and, within a year, Arkansas was experiencing a “pearl rush!” A few years later, someone discovered that the mussel shells, which had until then been discarded, could be used to make lovely buttons. The first button factory opened in Black Rock in 1900. The “pearl boom” seemed to dwindle away by the late 1960s, although there are still those who hunt the regional streams for the beautiful objects.

Why not make a piece of Arkansas’s heritage for yourself? Learn to make beautiful jewelry from the stunning orbs as Powhatan Historic State Park in Powhatan offers a Pearl Stringing Workshop: Necklaces, Bracelets and Earrings on Jan. 29. Participants learn how to make the stunning jewelry and learn about the history of the freshwater pearling industry on the Black River. For more information or to register for the class contact the park at 870-878-6765.

Want to learn more about Arkansas’s pearling and button making history? Plan a trip to the Randolph County Heritage Museum in Pocahontas, where you’ll find a great exhibit focusing on the pearl and button industry in north central Arkansas. Visit Check out their video tour of the museum at

To see displays of beautiful Arkansas pearls, visit Pearls Unique, located in Newport, is the only natural pearl shop in Arkansas. The shop features an array of Arkansas pearls, many dating back to the “pearl rush,” as well as a complete line of pearl jewelry, loose pearls, and selected custom designs. You can contact them at 800-637-3233 for questions or information.
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