Sunday, July 03, 2005

Are pearls formed from grains of sand?

Although it is widely believed that pearls are formed from a grain of sand lodged in a mollusk, this is more myth than reality. Instead, a pearl typically forms when an irritant such as a parasite, wayward food particle or other organic matter becomes trapped in the mollusk. This causes the mollusk to coat the object with layers of aragonite and conchiolin, forming a pearl.

With cultured pearls, instead of waiting for a natural irritant, a pearl farmer insets an irritant, such as a mother-of-pearl bead, into the tissue of a pearl bearing mollusk. Once inserted, a cultured pearl grows the same way as a natural pearl.