History of use

How long does it take for a pearl to form?

The first stage of pearl cultivation is collecting eggs from pearl oysters. The young mollusks that emerge from it are kept in metal cages with small cells to protect them from attacks by octopuses, starfish and other sea-dwelling enemies. The cages must be periodically cleaned and checked to see if their inhabitants are healthy, and after two years, slightly grown mollusks are transplanted from small cages to large ones. Another year later, when the oysters reach maturity, an operation is carried out to place a grain of mother-of-pearl inside. The operation is as follows: a small strip of tissue is separated from one oyster. A ball of mother-of-pearl is wrapped in this cloth and placed in the body of another oyster. The mollusk is returned to the sea, and the tissue that was implanted behaves in the same way as the animal’s own cells, secreting nacre that envelops the foreign grain. The balls that are placed in the oyster are carefully selected in size – they should not be larger than a certain size that the oyster can process. If the grain exceeds a certain maximum size, the oyster may die. Cages containing pearl oysters are attached to floating buoys connected to each other. The buoys simultaneously hold up to 80 thousand cells. Using motor boats, they are periodically moved to other places to provide food for the oysters. Some types of crustaceans and seaweed pose a threat to the health of oysters, so they are periodically removed from the surface of each shell, then treated with a special compound that prevents the spread of parasites. Despite all these concerns, some of the oysters die in the first month, and some reject the ball placed in them. The mollusks remaining in the work, and there are less than a third of them, form a couple of millimeters of mother-of-pearl in a few months. It takes at least three years to grow large Akoya pearls. In modern pearl farms, they are x-rayed and determined whether the pearl is developing inside and, if so, what its diameter is. The process of growing pearls lasts several years. During this time, oyster processing procedures are regularly carried out, after which beautiful and valuable pearls can finally be extracted. The percentage of pearl formation even when growing oysters and taking good care of them is very small. It is even more difficult to sort pearls that match each other by size, color, level of shine, and smoothness. In nature, no two pearls are exactly alike, so sorting pearls is a very complex process that takes a lot of time. Pearls are divided into groups according to size, shape, shade, and brightness of mother-of-pearl, so each pebble is moved many times. After sorting, a hole is carefully drilled into the pearl. It is very important that it is located exactly in the center of the pearl, since even minimal asymmetry can spoil the appearance of a necklace or other jewelry. After this, identical pearls are selected to make up the jewelry. This is even more painstaking work than sorting: jewelers have to look through the most identical pairs of stones from a group that has already been selected by size, color, shape, brightness, and therefore very similar. Only a specialist with extensive experience can select the perfect pearls for making jewelry. For example, to select 47 absolutely identical pearls for a necklace 42 centimeters long, you have to look through over 10 thousand stones. Where are irregularly shaped pearls that are not suitable for jewelry purposes used? They are usually used in the production of medicines, cosmetics and for other purposes – for example, for the production of artificial pearls.

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Many people are interested in the question of how pearls appear in the shell cavity, because the formation of a small nacre ball inside a mollusk is a real miracle of nature.


A pearl is a fragile precious stone, captivating with its mother-of-pearl luster, the extraction of which has always interested humanity. It is known that such a precious stone matures inside the shell of a mollusk, which can live both in the sea and in the river.

Wild pearls

Wild pearls are gemstones that are mined directly from the oysters’ habitat, that is, from the river or sea. Many people are interested in the question of how pearls appear in the shell cavity, because the formation of a small nacre ball inside a mollusk is a real miracle of nature. In fact, the process of forming a pearl takes over ten years, and one high-quality, from the point of view of the jewelry industry, stone is found once in 1-100 oysters. In order for a full-fledged pearl to form inside the shell, which is commonly called a pearl oyster, it is necessary for the smallest parasite or insect to enter the mantle of the mollusk. Since the mantle of a living organism is completely penetrated by a network of nerve endings, the mollusk tries with all its might to resist the foreign body, but due to poor muscle development, it cannot push the “stranger” out of the shell. Because of this, the mollusk triggers another protective mechanism that allows it to resist the foreign agent – the mantle begins to envelop the parasite or insect with a layer of protein that has a pearlescent sheen. Gradually, this substance is layered on a foreign body, around which over the course of several years a nacreous ball is formed, which will eventually become a full-fledged pearl. It was noted that in the first year the stone grows intensively compared to subsequent years. So, in the first 150 months the tiny body turns into a ball with a diameter of 12 millimeters, but over the next few years the pearl grows by only 2 millimeters per year. For this reason, its maturation requires over 0,3 years.

Harvesting wild pearls has not been practiced since the late nineteenth century, as it involves large-scale destruction of oysters. If humanity had not abandoned this activity, irreparable harm would have been caused to the aquatic ecosystem. Moreover, at the very beginning of the twentieth century, a Japanese entrepreneur and researcher made a discovery that became a real sensation in the global jewelry industry. A man named Mikimoto Kokichi invented oyster farms, where humanity still grows pearls in artificially created conditions, and such pearls are called cultured pearls. In its quality and wear resistance, it is practically in no way inferior to wild pearls, but the price of a human-grown stone is much lower than that of wild pearls. Cultured pearls are often called artificial, but this is completely incorrect, since an artificial stone is one that does not involve a mollusk in its formation. Cultured pearls are also the creation of a living organism for which man has created conditions favorable for its life.

Farms where pearls are grown

The farm where oysters are grown for the purpose of harvesting pearls is an artificially created reservoir in which optimal conditions for oysters are created. To form a pearl in a mollusk shell, a tiny bead is placed into its cavity, and the shell itself is immersed in a body of water in a special hanging container. After 1-2 years, a mother-of-pearl ball is formed in the cavity of the pearl oyster, which can have the most bizarre shape – oval, flattened, etc. The standard round pearl is a rare formation. Freshwater pearls can be obtained in the same way. As for the “yield” of farms, it is impossible to predict it, since the mollusk can reject the implant immediately after replanting, which is why the pearl formation process stops at its very beginning. The parameters of the stone, such as its shape, shade and size, also cannot be predicted, so cultivating pearls is often an unprofitable business.

Where pearls are mined today: Japan, China, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Egypt, USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland.

The jewelry industry uses not only classic white pearls, but also colored pearls. The required shade of the stone is obtained by changing the chemical composition of the water in which the oysters grow.

Fake pearls

Today you can find fake pearls on sale, which are a glass or plastic ball coated with artificial mother-of-pearl. Such stones are used in the production of costume jewelry, but there are cases when artificial pearls are offered to the buyer at the price of natural ones. You can distinguish a natural stone from a fake using this technique: You can rub two beads against each other if you have to deal with a necklace. If these are natural pearls, then they will not easily rub against each other, as if clinging to each other, since the surface of natural pearls has some roughness. As for the fake, both beads will slide over each other without difficulty.

Gold is a precious metal that will never lose its relevance. It is from it that the largest number of jewelry is made, and gold products are the most popular among buyers. However, today you can find a large number of fakes.

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