Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl

It is easy to get confused. Because yes, mother of pearl is the same calcium carbonate nacre from which our beautiful pearls are composed. But, what is the difference?

Mother of pearl is the term used to describe the inner layer of the shell of some mollusks. There are three types of mollusks where it is commonly found, pearl oysters, freshwater mussels, and abalone.

The same way a pearl is formed by coating a nucleus or irritant with layers of nacre, the mollusk coats the inside of its shell to protect it. Mother of pearl specifically refers to the inner coating the mollusk shell.

In addition to the placement in the mollusk, there are many differences in the supply and availability of mother of pearl and pearls. Gem quality pearls are a rare commodity and take many years to produce, whereas mother of pearl is available in almost all of the three types of mollusks. So, mother of pearl is much less rare and therefore, less valuable than pearls. 

However, there are many uses for mother of pearl that make it unique and desired. I am sure you have seen many of the wonderful mother of pearl inlay in furniture, silver, and home decor.

Mother of pearl has been used as an accent in various musical instruments, guitars, harmonicas, and accordions. Let us not forget the necessary caviar spoons made of mother of pearl.

Then, of course, before plastic, the mother of pearl was the most used component for buttons.
Mother of pearl has been found recently in a plaque from Mesopotamia to 2500 BC. It has a long history of use in China during the Shang and Ming dynasties. Mother of pearl has also been used in Native American tribes for decorative jewelry. 
Finally, I was in Fiji visiting Justin Hunter and his wonderful and sustainable pearl farm in Savusavu and he had the incredible supply of oyster shells that he was anguishing about what to do. You might send him some suggestions. I have...



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