As an organic gem (meaning a gem that is not a mineral but one which has been created by a living organism), Pearls and Mother of Pearl have been sourced from our oceans for thousands of years.
Mother of Pearl is primarily sourced from the inside of shells and is associated with prosperity and good luck. Because of this it is often offered as a gift for someone who may need good fortune to come his or her way.
Records show that the beautiful iridescent lustre of Mother of Pearl has been enchanting jewellers for over 5000 years! In China, Mother of Pearl has been held in high regard for many thousands of years and decorated objects were often taken to temples as offerings. Because of this, there are numerous references to this gem in Chinese myths and legends. As they believed it helped reduce heart palpitations, dizziness and high blood pressure, in the past the Chinese have also used Mother of Pearl in medicines. It is still used today in a variety of skin creams said to help diffuse small spots and scars.
In the 1500’s Mother of Pearl was at a peak in its popularity and over-sourcing meant that supplies in the Persian Gulf were almost exhausted. Consequently, sailors looked further afield for the precious natural gem, and in 1568 the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana discovered the Solomon Islands, which were rich in both gold and Mother of Pearl. He named the islands after King Solomon who, legend has it, owned a secret source of mines that no one knew about; Mendana believed that he had found them within these islands.
Nowadays, Pearls and Mother of Pearl can be cultivated by humans and used for many purposes such as decoration on musical instruments, watch faces and in exotic furniture.
The correct term for Mother of Pearl is in fact Nacre, (from the Arabic word for shell “Naqqarah”) which is the same secretion from a mollusc that forms a Pearl.
The name Mother of Pearl was in fact given to the inner layer of a shell by Queen Elizabeth I. As well as forming Pearls, the nacre is deposited on the inside of the mollusc shell creating a protective coating against parasites.
Mother of Pearl is extremely resilient and tough due to its brickwork-like, layered composition and it is these layers that provide the gem with such glorious iridescence.
text-align: justify;">The colour of the nacre can be extremely varied, covering almost the whole spectrum from black to white. It is determined by several factors, the most important being: the type of shell, location in which the shell is found, the food the mollusc eats and any trace metals in the surrounding environment.