Pearls were used as decoration 3,500 years before Christ. The only gem that formed naturally and useable as soon as you bit down on one while eating a mollusk of some sort. They became valued for their beauty and natural perfection by all early cultures and remain so today. Birdsong Bob Keast bought into the only place in North America that farms pearls. Bob’s Birdsong Resort, the pearl farm, boat slips, boat rentals and sales is not unlike a little city of its own.
An aerial view of the spot on the Tennessee River off I-40 near
Camden is where Bob runs his farm, gives tours and sells beautiful pearl
jewelry, among other needed items in his store. A little museum tells
the story and a 45 minute film shows how it is done. Bob even has his
own sauce, Birdsong Bob’s Barbecue Sauce-mild, unlike his personality.
In fact, Bob was so busy, (his wife Judith calls him “Type A”)) we
didn’t get a picture of him. He appeared to be putting out wildfires
right and left. I guess a resort with permanent sites, rental sites,
room for tenters, along with boat rentals coming in from fishing for the
day, and…well you get the point. It is a very busy place. The formal
picture above is from when Bob was made official Ambassador for the
State of Tennessee. And, we all know Judith helps make all he does
And now to the culture of fresh water pearls. My first thought was
how do they find the particular mollusk that has been “seeded” with an
irritant to produce a pearl? Well, the answer is pretty simple. The
mollusks are tied in wire racks and suspended in the water until the
pearl forms. And, I learned that pearls can be formed in any number of
different mollusks such as oysters, clams, conch and others. The large
mollusk above has room enough to seed forty small pearls at once.
The mollusk is soaked in warmish water until it relaxes and opens its
mighty grip. It is sometimes necessary to sedate them a bit. Then, the
“seeds” made from plugs of used shells or thinner organic mantle
material are inserted and the mollusk is left to form a crystalline
carbonate natural coating over the irritant, and thus the pearl is
Though cultured pearls are made by the bi-valve, the same way a
naturally occurring pearl is made, culturing allows different shapes to
be put in the shell and form squares, crosses, or your initials if you
are so inclined.
Perhaps the most famous pearl was once owned by a queen and purchased by Richard Burton for his queen. Truly gorgeous.
Bob’s store carries a beautiful line of finished pearls for sale, some quite affordable I might add.
Anyone of these necklaces, with all colors of pearls, can be purchased for $45.
Fine jewelry as in this pearl winged swan set in gold is also available.
White gold and pearl necklace and earrings sells for $1,500.
A golden fish with pearls and a diamond in his mouth, a real beautiful piece.
You can also buy some beautiful polished shells at Bobs.
Pearls come in many colors, even gray pearls are beautiful on their
own. In the film a piece of jewelry shows a bright orange pearl as the
bulbous body of a spider.
Birdsong Resort is a bit off the beaten path but well worth a visit. And Bob is a first-rate character.
We left Birdsong and visited the Patsy Cline Memorial. She died March 5th, 1963.
The memorial is printed on a rock deep in the ravine where the plane
went down. A sad day for all of us when her beautiful voice was
We spent the night at Camden Elks Lodge #2156 where we discovered the
friendliest Elks Club we’ve ever visited. What a great bunch of
guys….and gals. The guys gave Jim a shirt referencing their annual
crappie tournament, and me a lodge pin. I’ve asked my lodge to give me
something to handout along the way, but they don’t seem to be
And, I’m not sure how this plumbers butt picture got into my camera.
All I know is she usta wazza truck driver, but plumbing pays better, so
she got a surgeons tattoo? Or something like that. Itsa mystery. We
gals had a grand time yakkin away. Thanks to all of you from Lodge