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Pearl jewelry: What mussels have pearls?

Huitre Perliere

You love fine elegant pearl jewelry and have heard that pearls come from shells? This article is about, which shells have pearls and how they are actually created. Pearls have been considered particularly precious and valuable for thousands of years. In different cultures they stand for beauty, eternity, wealth and perfection. Yet pearls are by nature anything but “perfect”. Even if it may seem so, they are rarely exactly round or flawlessly white. What every pearl brings, however, is the unmistakable shimmer, also known as luster. The reason for this is light refraction at the crystal edges of the mother-of-pearl is created by the shell inside coating a small nucleus with the material layer by layer. The question is can any seashell do this, and if not, which seashells have pearls?

What are pearls and where do pearls come from?

What shells have pearls? Pearls are a product of nature and are formed inside a mollusk or snail. Today we know more than 10,000 species of shells in fresh and salt water, but only a fraction produce pearls. Pearls made from shells are probably one of the most beautiful elements for jewelry refinement, although often cultured pearls are used for this purpose. Nevertheless, shell pearls are and remain a product of nature. So where do pearls come from? Only in the case of cultured pearls with a nucleus, a small nucleus is inserted into the interior of the mussel at the beginning, which the shells now covers with many layers of nacre, proteins and conchin (organic substance consisting of amino acids and polysaccharides) as an actual protective mechanism. At the end of the natural process, the pearl is created.

Which mollusks have pearls and how do their shapes differ? Their shape, color and size depend on the type of shell, habitat, water temperature and food. Depending on this, the shells are then white, cream, slightly yellowish or pink to anthracite and can bring a greenish or bluish glow. Among the largest pearls are the South Sea pearls, some of them can be more than 20 millimeters in size. For jewelry making, 150 mm pearls are common and they can be called “real pearls”. There are more than a few shells that form pearls – very few of them ultimately make it into the trade, which shows how precious pearls are. Here at Beviva, you’ll find a wide selection of pearl rings or real pearl earrings.

By the way, pearls that do not make it to the market are sorted out and ground into powder, which in turn is used in cosmetics production.

Pearls wanted? Which shells habe pearls?

Which mussels have pearls? That depends on whether they can produce nacre. Among the best known representatives is the genus Pinctada. It is native to salt water and naturally produces nacre. What other mollusks have nacre: the genus Hyriopsis, which lives in fresh water, and the species Margaritifera, which lives in rivers. In the wild, it is a mere accident of nature that a foreign body penetrates the mantle tissue of the mollusk, whereupon the defense mechanism of the mollusk is activated and the foreign body is enclosed with countless layers of nacre, ultimately producing the pearl. In view of this, people have begun to grow pearls.

Since mussels are particularly sensitive creatures that require a lot of oxygen, clean water and an ideal water temperature, their population has declined sharply in polluted seas. They are also hardly found in rivers anymore. 99% of all pearls today come from farmed stocks.

Which mussels have pearls: Mussels farm pearls

Which mussels have pearls? The genus Pinctada in seawater and the genera Hyriopsis and Margaritifera in freshwater are also used for pearl culture. Besides the cultivation with transplantation of a nacre core, there are also the seedless cultured pearls, where only a tissue part is transplanted. Nucleus-less cultured pearls are mainly produced in freshwater mussels, while in saltwater mussels a nucleus is additionally inserted into the pearl-producing mussel. An example of cultured pearls without a graft nucleus is the South Sea pearl. On the other hand, the Japanese Akoya pearl as well as the dark Tahitian pearls, are cultured with a nucleus.

Good to know: To the question “What shells have pearls?” the answer may be mussels or oysters. Unfortunately, these are rare and tiny, so hardly of great importance.

Now you know not only where pearls come from, but also an answer to the question: Which shells have pearls? What is still missing? Your own handmade jewelry, which of course comes from 100% genuine pearls from certified dealers. Discover now our entire assortment of dreamlike pearl jewelry. Have fun browsing!