Midwest Living Review
Artist Nadine Leo designs her jewelry with an increasingly rare local product: pearls produced by freshwater mussels native to the Mississippi and other area rivers. You can find simple pearl earrings under $50 at this shop, or pick up a striking pin of carved ivory surrounded with Mississippi River wing pearl and diamonds for a cool $15,000. There are lots of loose pearls for sale, too. Leo has sold pearl jewelry to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, and sold a broach for $200,000 through Tiffany's. Why so spendy? Freshwater mussel populations are declining, largely due to the spread of the highly invasive non-native zebra mussel. Harvesting the native mussels is no longer permitted, so the number of these pearls for jewelry is finite. Leo was one of the first artists to settle in the area--she moved from the Twin Cities to Alma in the early 70s--so it's quite likely you can see more Mississippi pearls here than anywhere else in the world.