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Evey time you eat an Oyster do you wonder what happened to the pearl?  This has been one of the great mysteries of our time.  Those that are responsible for cultivating Pearls may be responsible for keeping it that way.

Oyster to Pearl

On the floor of sandy tropical seas is the home of the Oyster.  They get their food by sifting through the water.  Their bodies are easily irritated by any foreign bodies such as grains of sand.  To defend their bodies they cover grains of sand with mother-of-pearl.  This substance is used by the oysters to line their shells. Pearls are usually formed after years of coating.  The color of the pearl can be various colors depending on the tinge of the nacre.

Oyster Producing Pearls Locations

Not all oysters produce pearls.  The areas of the world that have pearl-producing oysters are the Red Sea, The Persian Gulf, and the Great Barrier reef, just to name a few.  Believe it or not, Japan is has the best known pearl producing oysters.  They actually have female divers that risk their lives to retrieve the oysters.  These female divers can stay under for several minutes and dive as deep as forty five feet.  What makes them extraordinary is that this diving is done without scuba gear.

Japanese Secret

The Japanese learned to harvest oysters in early in the 1900’s.   This has been to the advantage of the industry at large because genuine pearls are extremely scarce.  You would need a ton of oysters in order to have one pearl in good condition.  If an oysters shell is opened and small pieces of the shell are carefully inserted as “seed”; pearls can be produced in 3 or more years.   Depending on the shape of the “seed” that is used; the pearl itself can be manipulated to the desired shape.  The Japanese carefully guard the secret of exactly how the pearls are cultured.  Those that have attempted to mirror the process in other countries have had very limited success.  However, in the United States they have become very successful in cultivating “fresh water” pearls. 

Other Pearl Producing Shell Fish

What you may not be aware of is that freshwater mussels are also able to produce pearls.  The colors of their pearls are red or pink. 

Imitation Pearls

Due to the expense of real pearls; numerous imitations exist.  Nacre, shell, and coral make the highest quality faux pearls.  Those known as the “essence d Orient” are the cheapest type; made of glass and fish scale solution.  Although these pearls look smoother in the beginning, they eventually lose their luster. 


Due to technology, there will come a time when production of Oysters will be seen in a lab.  With mantle tissue and a little genetic engineering there is a great likely hood of producing real pearls.  When the time comes and this technology prevails, the cost of pearls will plummet. 

The only thing that would change that is this process being as closely guarded as that of the Japanese cultivation secret.