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How do Oysters Make Pearls?

how do oysters make pearlsWe know why oysters make pearls. Because it hurts! But how do oysters make pearls? To begin with, the pearl making process is a natural defense against some kind of irritating foreign object.

It could be grain of sand or some kind of parasite that enters the shell and is a problem because it doesn’t belong in the oyster. It’s too big to be absorbed, so the body treats it like a foreign invader, encasing it in one layer after another of a substance called nacre, building up into a pearl. Nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, encases and protects the oyster from whatever is causing the irritation.

When pearls are cultured commercially an irritant is manually inserted into the oyster to promote the production of mother-of-pearl. When we say layer after layer of nacre, we literally mean thousands of layers. For this reason, it usually takes from two years up to four years for a pearl to fully develop.


“All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” – Frederico Fellini


Natural pears are extremely rare. It is estimated that in the wild, only about 1 out of 10,000 oysters have a pearl growing inside. What makes a natural pearl even more rare is the fact that only a small percentage of pearl that are found, meet jewelry industry standards for color, shape and size.

In nature, the larger, and therefore older oysters are more likely to contain a pearl, but there is absolutely no way to know if a pearl is inside without opening the oyster. Almost 100% of pearls sold are cultured, not natural. Since the vast majority of oysters opened, even cultured, do not contain pearls, thousands of oysters are opened and discarded. This results in their death as they are not utilized as food because oysters are eaten raw or cooked alive.

Now, if anyone asks you how do oysters make pearls, you can tell them that and a whole lot more.

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Video – How do Oysters Make Pearls?

Transcript – how do oysters make pearls – Gems and jewelry, mined from the earth’s crust and polished into some of the World’s most expensive rocks, But not your grandmother’s pearls. As you probably know, those shiny things grew inside The highly calcified bivalve that we know as the oyster. So how did this happen And why? Whether cultured by humans, Or naturally formed in the wild Pearl formation is the result of a simple irritant.

Many species of bivalves, including mussels and clams Are capable of producing pearls when irritated, but only a few can form the shiny coating That makes them so attractive to humans And oysters do it better than anyone else In the wild. The irritant is just a small particle that Makes its way between the oyster’s soft tissue and its hard outer shell? You often hear about pearls, starting with a grain of sand, but more often it’s just a random bit of gunk like a chunk of food that ended up in the wrong place, But no matter what it is.

How do Oysters Make Pearls? Foreign Objects are the Key. A foreign object can aggravate the oyster’s soft tissues, much as a splinter in your skin or dust in your eye, So the oyster deals with this irritant. First by Surrounding it, with a thin layer of protective cells forming, what’s called a pearl sac, These cells then secrete a combination of proteins that form a kind of molecular glue. Around the offending bit of grit, The sac then starts releasing layer.

After layer of material called nacre, Also known as mother of pearl nacre is Mostly composed of a crystallized form of calcium carbonate, called aragonite Chemically speaking, it’s the same. Compound as the oyster’s shell, but that kind of calcium carbonate called calcite Is more durable and arguably less lovely Inside the pearl sac the aragonite bonds? With the base layer of protein glue and then the layers start to stack up, These layers of nacre will give the pearl its iridescence, But despite their smooth glossy appearance, They actually have a slightly jagged texture.

Scientists think this allows the pearl to be rotated. Easily by the flowing water, which in turn allows the coating to be distributed evenly And since the irritant itself was probably irregular in Shape and shifted around while it was being coated. Most pearls aren’t perfectly round The ones that are have usually Been cultured by humans and those are made by implanting oysters With bits of tissue from other oysters and sometimes spherical beads to Stimulate the formation of a pearl sac, Often in the oyster’s gonad, where the oyster Can’t dislodge whatever has been put there. That sounds pretty irritating

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