Pearls are gemstones but not mined from the earth. They are produced by oysters living in both freshwater and seawater. Occasionally, mussels and clams also produce pearls. It is a biological process in these living organisms that produce a substance called nacre.
How nacre gets produced?
Accidentally, a foreign substance like sand particle gets wedged inside the oyster’s shell and mantle [interior organ]. This irritates mantle just like you feel the prick of a wood splinter in your finger. The oyster responds naturally to protect itself by covering this irritant with nacre layers. Nacre is used to create shell but instead a pearl gets formed. Learn more on pearlsonly.co.uk.
Perfectly round pearls are used to make beautiful jewelry. Uneven and irregular shaped pearls are called baroque pearls. Besides white, there are variety of colored pearls including red, blue, gray, green, lavender, and even black.
Does every oyster produce pearl?
Pearl that form naturally is natural pearls but the ones that get nucleated at pearl farms are cultured pearls. Both possess equal quality but cultured are less expensive as they are easily available. Remember, just one in ten thousand oysters produce pearl naturally, which is hard to keep with demand. Fortunately, pearl-makers introduced culturing process that allows them to make use of the oysters quickly and economically.
Which oysters make pearls?
Species of pearl oysters are –
- Pinctada Maxima – Gold or silver lipped pearl oyster produces South Sea pearls.
- Pinctada Margaritifera – Black lipped pearl oyster produces the exotic Tahitian pearl.
- Pinctada Fucata – Akoya pearl oyster found in Indo-Pacific’s shallow water.
- Different species of freshwater mussel or clams make fine pearls.
The three main types of saltwater pearls are South Sea, Tahitian, and Akoya. The pearl oysters grow just one pearl, so are costly than fresh water ones. Single freshwater mussel produces 30 to 50 pearls, during a single harvest. Therefore, the market is saturated with freshwater pearls.
La Peregrina is a 500-year-old pear shaped pearl. Its size is equivalent to the egg of a pigeon. This pearl has been passed across royal families and currently was auctioned for whopping $11 million. Pearl is associated with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Queen Mary. Even first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama regularly adorned lavish pearl jewelry.