Here are a couple of pictures from the pearl market up north. If you look past the man, you can see that this place is pretty much endless. Pearls and shell in every shape imaginable. I can only last about 3 hours before I start to get a little loopy and start buying random, sometimes ugly stuff. The next picture is kind of gross, so don't look if you are turned off by slimy stuff.
My listening skills were little to be desired by this point (I was more concerned with the large knife used to cut this sucker open), but I think these are freshwater pearls. See them on the sides of the shell? She cuts away some of the muscle and the pearls just fall out. Congratulations! It's a pearl! (sorry couldn't resist) I don't know about you, but this site pretty much erased my cartoony pearl and oyster vision of how pearls are made.
The cool thing about pearls is they can look really classy or really arty depending on the design-especially with dyed pearls. They look good alone or alongside other materials. Here, they are strung onto ear wires with a crystal. The cloisonne bead is strung on a ball/star head pin from Beadalon.
Tons of info on the web including a few videos on knotting pearls. Definitely get a bead reamer if you are going to string pearls. They make enlarging holes easy. As our dear Martha would say, "it's a good thing."