Did you know that pearls are made in shelled mollusks like oysters, mussels, and clams? When something like a piece of sand or parasite gets inside of the shell, the mollusk encases the irritant in many layers of nacre to protect itself. Nacre gives pearls their iridescent luster and is made from calcium carbonate (like eggshells) and conchiolin (a protein ‘glue’ made by mollusks). Natural pearls are rarely spherical in shape. Humans ‘grow’ or culture pearls by inserting a spherical bead and waiting for the mollusk to encase the particle in layers of nacre. The largest known natural pearl is about 12 inches wide, 27 inches long and weighs about 75 pounds; it was created by a giant clam.
We hope that you find many pearls of wisdom! Remember to think kind thoughts, use kind words, and do kind things. We Love You.
Pearls are also known as ‘calcareous concretions’. All shelled mollusks can create ‘pearls’, but only those species that create pearls with luster and shine are prized, especially those which create round and spherical specimens.
Aragonite is a mineral made from calcium carbonite, mostly formed by biological processes, such as the one used by mollusks.
Conchiolin is made from proteins and is secreted by a mollusk’s mantle. It creates a matrix to hold aragonite crystals, which creates a surprisingly sturdy material. Some mollusks, such as land snails, have shells that are mostly made of conchiolin instead of aragonite.
A pearl’s iridescence is created by light refracting through the layers of nacre.
It takes about 12-18 months for a cultured pearl to be ready.
X-rays can identify cultured vs. natural pearls. Natural pearls are made from almost 100% aragonite and conchiolin. An x-ray will easily show the cultured seed in the middle of the pearl.
Real pearls will dissolve in acidic substances such as vinegar.
Imitation pearls are made from ground mother of pearl shells or glass beads coated with a solution of fish scales called essence d’Orient.
The second largest pearl on record is known as the Pearl of Lao Tzu. It weighs about 14 pounds.
White, ivory, and black are common colors for pearls. Tints of pink, blue, champagne, green, and purple are also possible.