Mother of pearl refers to the substance that oysters and pearl mollusks secrete to eventually create what we know as pearls. Mother of pearl is not a mineral, though pearls are lined side by side with precious stones as they are also beautiful, rare, and perfect for jewelry.
What is Mother of Pearl Made of?
Mother of pearl or nacre is a special secretion release by pearl-forming oysters and other shellfish as a means of defending the mollusk from foreign bodies and potential invaders. Normally, oysters release nacre in response to irritants like sand. Because foreign irritants can eventually cause health problems for pearl-forming oysters, over time, the nacre secretion increases, encapsulating and enveloping the foreign irritant.
The natural nacre formations that are eventually formed are what we call pearls. Pearls are made from nacre, thus the wordplay “mother of pearl”. What pearl farmers usually do is insert the nucleus of the pearl into the farmed oysters to encourage the continuous secretion of nacre. This is a manual process and only highly skilled pearl farmers succeed with the majority of their oysters.
When oyster detects the irritant within itself, it goes into defensive mode and begins producing the mother of pearl to protect itself from what was inserted manually into its fleshy folds. The secretion is gradual, and because oysters are technically small, they can only produce so little mother of pearl per day.
What is the Pearl nucleus?
The pearl nucleus is any bead or object that is manually inserted into the gonad or reproductive organ of viable freshwater mussel varieties to irritate its system and encourage the formation of nacre or mother of pearl. The method of nucleation differs from farm to farm, because each farm has its trade secrets and variations in the procedures that they believe ultimately produce better pearls than their competitors.
Except for Keishi pearls, all of the pearls that are available in the market are products of the conventional nucleation process followed by pearl farmers from Japan to China. The size of the nuclei for pearl formation follows the traditional Japanese measurement called the bu. One bu is equal to 3.03 mm in the metric system, and .1193 of an inch in the imperial system. One bu is equivalent to 1/100th of a shaku.
On average, oysters can only accept one to two pieces of nucleation at a time, and they die at harvest time. The species of oyster used for Akoya pearl can accept a maximum of five pearls, and they too, die when the pearls are finally harvested. Strains of oysters that have been successfully nucleated above the average count are often returned to the wild to contribute to the genetic diversity of the oysters in the area and to ensure that future oysters will be able to handle bigger loads of nucleation for higher pearl farm outputs.
How long does it take for Pearls to form?
Farming pearls is a serious, time-consuming business, and it takes anywhere from six months to seven years to produce market-worthy oysters. Japanese Akoya oysters and Tahitian pearls require around 24 months before the pearls are ready to be harvested. The highest quality Chinese cultured pearls are harvested in the wintertime or fall when the quality of the nacre is highest, and they are only harvested after at least seven continuous years.
The time needed to prepare oysters for harvest is extreme, and this accounts for the price points of many pearl manufacturers and jewelers globally. Pearls are said to be high quality when itis minimal or virtually no calcium carbonate streaking. Streaking or striations throughout the pearl is considered a form of impurity that may affect the value of the batch of pearls. What is measured ultimately is the quality of the nacre or mother of pearl.
Meaning and Healing Properties of Mother of Pearl
Mother of the pearl refers to the layers of nacre that form the pearl. The spiritual properties of the mother of pearl and fully formed pearls are the same. Like other gemstones, mother of pearl has unique spiritual or metaphysical properties that help improve the spiritual life of the wearer.
Historically, the mother of pearl is associated with purity and faithfulness, which would explain why kings and queens gave their princesses pearl necklaces and jewelry, to symbolize the purity of the royal bloodline.
In ancient times, people believed that the mother of pearl represented the tears of gods and goddesses.
There is plenty of lore around the mother of pearl; some say that Cleopatra drank wine with powdered mother of pearl to protect herself from different kinds of poisons.
In Christian lore, the Devil was said to have broken his teeth after attempting to crunch down on fully formed pearls. The purity of the pearls resisted his efforts to chew down on them because he found pearl truly irresistible.
The mother of pearl is associated with the Luna (Moon) and the water element and it has a generally calming effect on the body and spirit. Pearls allow the wearer to tune in to calmer energy frequencies, which may improve the wearer’s quality of life. Pearls are thought to be associated with personal integrity as it helps with balancing fierce emotions. With better emotional balancing, the person is also able to make better decisions in life.
One caveat about wearing pearls is that it also tends to absorb negative feminine energies, so if the wearer is deluged by negative energy, the pearls can absorb the said negativity and pass it on to the next wearer. The foundation of pearls is purity and sadly, people can corrupt pearls if they don’t know how to manage their negativity. However, if it is used well, it can help reduce stress, anger, and other negative emotions. It can also help people recuperate what was lost due to poor management of emotions. You can pair pearls with friendly gemstones of the same type and elemental family.