How Are Pearls Made?

As if mother nature could become more amazing than she already is. With the minerals, ores, metals and precious stones found in the Earth itself there are other beautiful things made by creatures. Something as beautiful as a pearl can be found inside an actual living creature. Incredibly these Pearls are actually created by Mollusks. The most common mollusk that produce pearls are found in both fresh water and salt water. As well as oysters, clams and mussels also have the ability to create pearls but this is significantly more rare than oysters.

An Oysters Anatomy

When trying to understand how Oysters produce pearls the first thing we need to look at is their anatomy. The oyster has two valves that open and close to enable it to eat. The valves are held together by a ligament. It makes sense that as the oyster itself grows, its shell grows with it to accommodate the new size of the oyster. By taking minerals from the food that the oyster eats, the mantle is able to increase the size of the shell as the oyster grows. The name of the substance that the mantle uses to grow the shell is called nacre.

But, How Do They Do It?

The inside of the oyster is extremely delicate – as it contains its mouth, heart, intestines, gills, mantle etc so if a foreign object manages to intrude and irritate the space between the mantle and the shell then the oyster has to have a defensive mechanism. As the oyster does not have arms of fingers or any sort of extremity to try to remove the foreign substance (usually something like a grain of sand) it has to protect its insides a different way.

The mantle starts working overtime creating nacre to cover the irritant. After some time of continuing this process the foreign object covered in nacre eventually forms into a pearl. Think of a pearl like a cocoon where the foreign object is trapped inside a layers upon layers of nacre.

Pearls inside an oyster

Pearl Colors

When the pearl is forming, the tiny layers of nacre build up upon each other. Nacre is made up of tiny platelets that cause light to scatter when reflected. This is what causes to array of rainbow colors seen on the surface of a Pearl.

pearl structure that causes pearlescence

Types Of Pearls

The perfectly rounded pearls are the most expensive pearls and are the ones that we are able to find in jewellery stores. However, like anything that is naturally occurring they do not always turn out so perfect, and some are quite irregular and unusual in shape – still beautiful nonetheless. These uneven pearls are called baroque pearls.

As well as differently sized pearls you can get naturally occurring pearls of different colours, these are determined by the oyster type, the aquatic environment in which it was created, how many layers of nacre is used to cover it etc.

The process of pearl making is quite a simple one but an extremely delicate and intimate one. Pearls are one of the many natural wonders of our beautiful planet Earth. They can be cultivated by oyster farmers where they place between the nacre and mantle is purposely damaged to encourage foreign bodies to enter the oyster, but it is an occurrence that happens naturally and has happened naturally for as long as we can remember. There are many types, with a wide variety of colours that are graded in a specific way – and they all range in monetary value as well.


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