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What is Mother of Pearl? Where Does It Come From?

Mother-of-Pearl Necklace

What is mother of pearl? This is the name commonly used to refer to the nacre that coats a pearl. It’s a mixture of minerals secreted by oysters that actually forms the gem.

Nacre is secreted by oysters and various pearl mollusks as a defense mechanism against foreign irritants. With natural pearls, the objects are usually grains of sand or other things from the sea. Pearl farmers use the nucleus of a shell bead as an irritant, and place it inside the oyster manually.

What is mother of pearl? How is it different from a pearl gemstone?
What is mother of pearl? How is it different from a pearl gemstone? Image Source: The Spruce

Once the oyster snaps into defense mode, it begins to secrete nacre to cover the irritant to protect itself from it. After layers and layers of nacre are secreted, a pearl is formed.

What Is Mother of Pearl? Is It Actually a Pearl?

How does mother of pearl differ from the gemstone itself? Well, mother of pearl is actually nacre. A pearl, on the other hand, is formed by layers of nacre.

The oyster continues to form layer after layer of nacre, secreting it around the foreign particle. In time, a pearl is formed. Even though the pearl’s outer layer is made out of nacre, it is not the same thing as mother of pearl. This phrase refers to the nacre itself, before the pearl is born.

Mother of Pearl Veneer Decor for Autos
Mother of Pearl Veneer Decor for Autos. Image Source: Aqua Blue Maui

When it comes to pearl jewelry, the phrase mother of pearl generally refers to the thin coating of nacre that adheres directly onto the shell of the mollusk or oyster. However, some mollusks don’t have a coating of nacre. A shell that does not have a coating of mother of pearl will not have lustrous quality.

Gems containing mother of pearl will take on faint flows and distinct effects with multi-colors. Mollusk shells without nacre will take on more of a uniform, smooth porcelain-look.

What Is Mother of Pearl Jewelry VS Pearl Jewelry?

If you’re in the market for organic jewelry, mother of pearl jewelry pieces are top choices for 2018. It’s the only gemstone created by one of Mother Nature’s living creatures, making it the most organic gem on the planet.

Mother-of-Pearl Necklace
Mother-of-Pearl Necklace. Image Source: Art Institute Shop

Pearl jewelry and mother of pearl jewelry are not the same. They take on different look in multiple ways.

What Is Pearl Jewelry?

When pearl jewelry is created, wholes are usually drilled into the gems, and then they’re strung, as opposed to being set. Pearls are round to round-like gemstones that are very thick and only grow to a particular size.

Check out this gorgeous leather wrap and pearl necklace choker.
Check out this gorgeous leather wrap and pearl necklace choker. Image Source: Fallon Jewelry

What Is Mother of Pearl Jewelry?

Jewelry made from mother of pearl are generally larger pieces created as focal pieces. That’s because the material tends to take up the entire interior of the oyster’s shell. Mother of pearl set in jewelry pieces will be slightly rounded and very thin.

Mother of Pearl Value: Natural VS Manmade

Mother of pearl is created by all nacre producing mollusks. Yet, only a very small percentage will be infused by a foreign particle and go on to create pearls. Therefore, pearls are rarer than mother of pearl, making them much more expensive.

Pearl Necklace by The Pearl Source. Mika Larson Photography
Pearl Necklace by The Pearl Source. Mika Larson Photography

The coating of mother of pearl inside the shell of the mollusk can be used to produce jewelry. But, because the substance is abundant, these jewelry pieces tend to be less expensive than pearl jewelry pieces.

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Kiesha Joseph
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Kiesha Joseph

The Pearl Source Content Manager at Content Marketing Geek Corporation
Kiesha Joseph is the Managing Content Editor for ThePearlSource.com, a leading online pearl jewelry website offering high-quality pearls at affordable prices. Kiesha is a Content Marketing Geek who enjoys educating her audience on a broad range of topics, including trends in marketing, SEO, jewelry, fashion, celebrity style and more.
Kiesha Joseph
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