How are Pearls Made? 

How are Pearls Made? 

ByGroovy Green Jul 2, 2021

A pearl engagement ring may not be on the cards for you, but what about another piece of jewellery like a bracelet, earrings, or necklace? Pearls can be a beautiful focal point of any jewellery, while also being something that can suit any outfit you wear.

Still, have you ever been curious about how pearls are made? The following information may just surprise you.

The Three Pearl Types
You may not be aware, but there are three pearl types with three very different production processes. These consist of cultured, imitation, and natural. They come with different price tags based on how they form.

Natural pearls are, of course, formed naturally. We’ll go into more detail on this process below. You can also purchase a cultured pearl that has a little bit of human intervention into the “natural” process.

You can then buy imitation pearls, which are not natural. Instead, they are often glass with a thin fish scale coating. Over time, this coating can come off. You can also tell it’s a fake by rubbing it across your teeth. Fake pearls feel gritty, while real pearls will glide across your teeth without any damage.

How Natural Pearls Are Formed
Without human intervention, the way natural pearls form is genuinely quite interesting. If a clam, mussel, or oyster comes into contact with an irritant like a parasite, it uses a defence mechanism to take care of it.

The clam, mussel, or oyster, will coat the irritant in a fluid called nacre. It will keep applying this fluid until a stunning pearl takes shape. That’s why not every shell you come across is going to have a pearl. It depends on whether or not something has annoyed that creature enough for it to take action.

What About Cultured Pearls?
Because nature can be inconsistent with the formation of pearls, and there’s demand for them in jewellery, humans can intervene. Cultured pearls are formed in the same way as a natural pearl, but with more intention.

Specialists at these pearl farming businesses will implant a bead or small piece of shell known as the Mother of Pearl to act as the irritant. The time spent forming that pearl can dictate its quality and price tag for your jewellery down the line.

For example, a pearl that an oyster has carefully formed over a few years will be worth more than one it created in just a year. The nacre layer tends to be thinner, and therefore, less lustrous.

Pearls can be created in a freshwater or saltwater environment, but saltwater pearls tend to be of a higher quality. What’s more, the entire culturing process can take a long time, especially as mussels take around three years to mature before an irritant can be implanted.

Once you understand the formation of pearls, you can have a newfound appreciation for their place in your jewellery. Who would have thought that something that irritates a sea creature could end up as a stunning addition to a piece of jewellery?