How Pearls Are Made

Pearls are beads I believe will never go out for fashion. They have been around from the Roman times to today and through it’s journey through different eras, they continue to stand for class, beauty and bring luster to any jewelry piece. But in all these, one must wonder how pearls are made (at least I do) so today, we discuss how pearls are made and what makes them so appealing and expensive.

Pearls have chemical composition of CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate) and are classified as precious gemstones, considered rare, expensive and highly valuable.
Pearls are made under different conditions, some from chemical reactions with no human intervention (which take years to make and are very expensive), some made on pearl farms and other just glass made to look like pearls.

This results in two main popular categories of pearls natural and farmed/cultured pearls. There are other categories but these other ones fall under the main two in one way or the other.
Natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions. They occur when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk (e.g an oyster), and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the parasite, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl.

20121118-003813.jpgFreshwater pearls on the other hand are cultured. The intrusion process is stimulated by a pearl farmer. The farmer intentionally stimulates the development of the pearl by inserting a “nucleus” into the oyster. Thus, the formation and discovery of the pearl are no longer left to chance and are a bit less expensive as natural pearls. These cultured pearls are still real pearls, as they are grown organically inside of oysters in the same way as natural pearls.

Anatomy of an oyster
Anatomy of an oyster

Imitation pearls, are beads made to resemble real pearls. This enables people create jewelry for people who wants the luster and class pearls give but can’t afford real pearls. A variety of methods are used to create imitation pearls.  Materials range from glass, plastic, and actual mollusc shell. Some imitation pearls are coated with a pearlescent substance in order to imitate the natural lustrous of mother of pearl.

Pearls Today…
Natural pearls are extremely rare and so are of great desirability & commercial value as a result, cultured pearls have supplanted natural pearls as the most common and available pearls.

Imitation Pearls
Cultured Pearls
Natural pearls

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