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Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl is one of nature’s most luminous gifts with its beautiful lustre and intriguing iridescence. Mother of pearls have been cherished for their decorative qualities since early civilization and peaked in popularity during the Victorian era. Today, the world has once again opened its eyes to the striking properties of this stunning gem.

Mother of pearl (or nacre) is not an actual pearl, but rather the pearly inner layer found within certain types of mollusc shells.

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Mother of pearl belongs to a small group of gemstones classified as organic gemstones, just like the pearl. Mother of pearl (or nacre) is the pearly internal layer found within certain mollusc shells. Consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, it is created by the mollusc as a way of protecting itself from parasites. Mother of pearl has a platelet structure which reflects light waves and produces its renowned iridescent sheen.

Processing

After the mother of pearl is cut from the shell of the oyster, it is sometimes bleached to produce a uniform white color or dyed a range of attractive colors. A light polishing is applied to accentuate the pearlescent effect. Mother of pearl is often cut into fancy shapes for jewelry use. Shaping can be done by hand in traditional manner or achieved using modern laser cutting technology (CNC). In ancient times, mother of pearl was also used for mosaics, created with tiny pieces of the luminous gem.

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The unique lustre of pearls and mother of pearls have made them cherished throughout history.

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History

Mother of pearl has been a cherished adornment in jewelry and design for thousands of years. It was treasured by the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians, as well as the Victorians, who used it to create exquisite inlays on cutlery and decorative buttons. In the 1880s, the leaders of the London street traders began to decorate their suits with hundreds of mother of pearl buttons in order to highlight their fundraising activities. They subsequently became known as “Pearly Kings” and “Pearly Queens.” The tradition continues to this day, where mother of pearl is also used to decorate musical instruments and watch dials. Significantly, it has experienced a revival as an eye-catching jewelry component.

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Lustrous mother of pearl pieces has historically been used to create intricate inlay work.

Mother of Pearl Mosaic

The lustrous and iridescent appearance of mother of pearl is fully realized with the Pandora mosaic charms. The spectacular designs combine over 4,000 years of history with a modern aesthetic. Creating the mosaic charms involves a labor of love just like their ancient counterparts. Each design is a small work of art brought to life in a process that requires more than 18 different steps. Highly skilled craftspeople use traditional techniques to carefully arrange the small mother of pearl pieces that are shaped as small squares or moons and stars, piece by piece onto a resin or acrylic base using a special adhesive. The color of the base enhances the natural color of the gem. The piece is then baked in an oven to allow the adhesive to cure and strengthen the bonding. The final step is polishing the mosaic charms to create a high shine and assembling it with the sterling silver core.

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Creating the colorful mother of pearl rainbow mosaic charm requires more than 18 different steps.

MOTHER OF PEARL FACTS

• Mother of pearl is the popular name for nacre; the iridescent substance found on the inside of mollusc shells.

• Mother of pearl falls into the category of organic gemstones, originating from a living creature, plant or organism. It is made up primarily of calcium carbonate.

• Pearls are essentially created from layers and layers of nacre or mother of pearl. Mother of pearl essentially “gives birth” to the pearl, thus the reason behind its name.

• Mother of pearl is associated with family and motherhood. It represents harmony, calmness, positivity and intuition.

Mother of Pearl has a mesmerizing, almost holographic look.

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FACTS

SPECIES/GROUP: Mother of pearl

CLASSIFICATION: Organic gemstone

Origin

Mother of pearl forms naturally inside the shells of pearl producing molluscs. It is found all over the world and is collected from molluscs in the wild, as well as from cultivated oysters. The mother of pearl used in Pandora jewelry originates from pearl oysters farmed at seawater pearl farms in Indonesia.

NAME

Pearls are created from layers and layers of nacre. Mother of pearl essentially gives life to the pearl, thus the reasoning behind its name.

APPEARANCE

Virtually any color, often light in tone, with pearly lustre and often an iridescent effect.

Processing

Besides carved and faceted varieties, the mother of pearl used in Pandora jewelry has been cut and polished only.

DURABILITY

Mother of pearl has a hardness of 3.5-4.0 on the Mohs scale. It is rated as fair toughness and is reasonably durable, but it is particularly susceptible to attack by acids and damage from ultrasonic cleaning and is sensitive to solvents.

CARE

Mother of pearl is a delicate material that needs to be treated carefully. Rough surfaces may cause scratching or chipping. Jewelry should be stored separately in a protective box or pouch. Direct sunlight and drier climates may dry out mother of pearl and create cracks. Wearing mother of pearl is one of the best ways of caring for it, as contact with natural skin oils help maintain the lustre of the gem. Clean using a soft cloth dampened in lukewarm, soapy water and wipe the surface gently.

MYTHOLOGY & ASSOCIATION

Mother of pearl is strongly connected to the sea and said to symbolize the tides of emotion to inspire a calming effect. It is also believed to help bring harmony to relationships, dispel negativity and stimulate imagination and intuition. Mother of pearl is known as the “stone of sincerity” and the “mother stone.” Appropriately named, it is linked to family and especially to motherhood, representing soothing, maternal protection, a pure heart and mind, as well as innocence and faith. Mother of pearl jewelry is often gifted to mothers-to-be or to mothers on Mother’s Day. According to an ancient belief, mother of pearl will bring luck and wealth to the person wearing it while also bringing clarity to their life.

Learn more about other stone assortments