Maki-e pearls are Tahitian pearls that have an overlay painting of 24K gold with abalone shell inlay. This style is called Maki-e from the Japanese decorating Edo period.
Every pearl is uniquely painted with a combination of Urushi lacquer, a 24K gold powder and sometimes abalone shell inlay. The Urushi lacquer comes from the Japanese Urushi tree. Urushi lacquer is derived from a resinous tree sap. It was first used thousands of years ago in Asia.
Urushi lacquer technique is highly labor intensive and requires well trained craftsmen to skillfully apply the temperamental lacquer. It is an art form that takes many months to complete. Each layer must be artfully applied and then allowed to dry at high humidity in between each application.
Urushi lacquer is essential for preserving all kinds of cultural artifacts. It is the same lacquer used to cover boxes and bowls that transforms them into colorful and lustrous articles that are exquisite and durable for posterity.
Please don't mistake the Urushi lacquer technique for simply painting on a Tahitian pearl. the craft of sap harvesting for lacquer has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. These pearls are to be treasure forever.