Pyramid Studio’s loves pearls. We love their organic nature. They are mans oldest, and one of his most coveted, gems. Historians agree one of the reasons Julius Caesar invaded Britain was for freshwater pearls. One of biologic sciences greatest breakthroughs of the early 20th century was entrepreneur Mikimoto Kōkichim coaxing a pearl from an Akoya oyster. It revolutionized the gem industry and gave a new affordability to pearls. Over 99% of all pearls sold in the world are now cultured and have been since a few years after Mikimnoto’s 12 years of trial and error produced his breakthrough. Regrettably, natural pearls of store quality are extremely rare: by some estimates only one in 10,000 oysters may supply one. But a pearl is a pearl, natural or cultured they grow in exactly the same way. The only difference is culturing allows control of conditions and the odds of an oyster producing a a store quality pearl are much better: 5% to 10 % may give up a quality grade pearl after two years of growth.
In an oyster the mantle is the organ that produces the oyster’s shell. The mantle produces a substance called nacre in layers-like spray painting to form successive coats. This nacre hardens and mother of pearl is built up on the inside of the shell. To make a pearl a small bead, hopefully perfectly round, of mother of pearl nuclei is surgically implanted into the oyster between the mantle and shell. This irritates the mantle and like a finger reacting to a splinter the mantle fights back in the only way it knows how: by spraying it with nacre, coat upon hardening coat over a two to four year growth period. So the building coats of nacre from the host oyster produces the pearl and determines the pearls color.
The Akoya oysters of Japan, the first to be cultured, produce the classic white pearls and typically have the highest luster and greatest shine of all cultured pearls. The black lipped oysters of Tahiti and the Cook Islands produce a grey to black pearl full of mystery and deep lustre. Freshwater pearls from China come in a rage of pastel pinks, purples and greens.
So where do the American mussels com in?
Well traditionally since the early 1900’s most of the nuclei, those small irritating beads, have been formed from pieces of mother of pearl from the shells of freshwater pearls found in rivers waters from the Mississippi River Basin. Mikimoto began using American mussel shell for Akoya nuclei in 1907 and the tradition continued in farms worldwide. Only recently have the use Chinese freshwater clams begun making inroads into pearl nuclei market.
So American mussels have a tradition of irritating host oysters worldwide.
Drop by our shop in Downtown Ellsworth and visit our Akoya, Cook Island, and Freshwater Pearl selection and jewelry creations.
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Our web store is open 24/7 and can be found right here.