Ever wonder how pearls come to be?


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pearl-oyster.jpg

One day last week when I was aimlessly flipping through the channels, I came across a commercial for jewelry. A woman was wearing a beautiful pearl necklace, which was being advertised on screen. That is when it struck me. I had no idea how this item of such high value in society was created. I always knew they came from oysters, but I did not ever stop to think of how and why they were made. These were the events that inevitably led to this blog post.

Although Pearls can be created by Mollusks such as clams or mussels, the majority of these alluring pearls are born from oysters. But why are these marvelous balls of greatness formed? When a foreign object such as sand manages to make its way into the oyster's shell, its defense mechanism turns on.  A sand grain is basically the equivalent to humans getting a splinter. The oyster will spot the irritant and begin layering it with nacre, the same substance that makes up its shell. Nacre is a strong and buoyant substance, which gives the pearls its shiny white hue. Not all pearls end up worn on a necklace though. Most are deformed and ovular shaped, which is why the big and rounded ones are so valuable.

The reason we are able to have the amount of pearls we have today is because of the cultured pearl industry. These are man made pearls, which are created when a fisherman inserts a sand graft into the shell of a donor oyster. This way, the natural process is still occurring, but the process can be industrialized as a result. Because of this, the risk and chance from going pearl diving is a thing of the past. If you would like to find out more on how pearls are formed, watch this video. 

3 Comments

This is really cool! I always wondered how pearls were created, and this makes a lot of sense. I definitely will appreciate my pearl necklace more after reading this.

The video below is interesting because it talks about a bunch of different pearls. I had no idea there were black or orange ones. And some of them aren't even circular!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0UBikQJW0w

Jason,
I too have wondered about pearls! I recently went to Sea World and watched people "find their own pearl" which essentially happens when you shuck one of these "cultivated" pearls. They even sell them in kits! What I really found interesting, was the fact that we have something to do with the process. I had no idea! It really opened up my eyes that even the smallest things, we are able to enhance. Luckily enough, these special oysters ARE NOT the same as food oysters. I got really scared for a second because I thought that if we genetically modify the natural process of oysters and also eat them, bad things could happen. This is not the case. There are different types of oysters for different types of consumer outlets. I am relieved! This articleexplains the differences between a pearl oyster and a food oyster.

Jason,
I had no idea that pearls could be manmade! I always assumed that all pearls came right from the ocean depths but what you found was very interesting. I also never knew that round pearls were so rare! That is probably why they are so expensive. However, many people have argued that these man made pearls, even though they are being made in the oyster, are not real. Many argue that real pearls are not supposed to be perfectly round and they they are supposed to have an imperfect shape. Also, real pearls are supposed to have different colors and not appear to be the same color. The man made pearls are usually all identical. I found a really interesting website that gives you ways to see the differences between real and fake pearls if you would like to check it out: http://www.pearlsofjoy.com/Fake-vs-Real-Pearls_ep_101-1.html

I personally do not wear any pearls other than pear earrings but all of the pearls I have seen people wearing seem to all be fake or genetically modified when in fact people will still claim that they are wearing real pearls.

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