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How is a pearl made?

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2008-04-20 21:37:16

Answer Natural Pearls

Most importantly, a pearl is not formed from a grain of


A natural pearl forms when something organic, most often a

parasite, penetrates the shell of a mollusk and lodges within the

soft inner body of the animal. Upon penetrating the shell the

parasite encounters cells within the mollusk's mantle tissue known

as epithelial cells. These cells grow into a sac which envelopes

the intruder. This sac is known as a pearl sac. Once the sac has

developed the cells begin excreting a chemical substance of

aragonite and calcite. This is known as nacre. A natural pearl is

composed of nacre. Cultured Pearls, Saltwater and


Saltwater pearls are cultured by inserting a bead made of

freshwater mussel shell into the gonad of a host mollusk. Along

with this bead, a small piece of donor-mollusk mantle tissue is

inserted. This tissue contains the epithelial cells needed to grow

the pearl sac and initiate nacre deposition. The most common

varieties of cultured saltwater pearls are akoya, Tahitian and

South Sea. Freshwater pearls are cultured by inserting a small

piece of mantle tissue into an incision made in the mantle of a

host mussel. A bead is not needed and is rarely used except in

beaded cultured freshwater pearl production (CBSB fireball pearls).

Because the graft is made in the mantle tissue of the freshwater

mussel instead of the gonad, a freshwater mussel may be grafted

multiple times. Most often 12 to 16 grafts are inserted on either

side of the valve, producing 24 to 32 pearls.

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