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Facts About Pearls

The Martha Stewart Show, January January Winter 2007 2007

-Pearls are created by living creatures called mollusks.

-Any mollusk that produces a shell can produce a pearl. However, naturally occurring pearls are rare, found in about one out of every 10,000 animals.

-Pearls form when an irritant, such as a food particle or a piece of a shell, becomes trapped in the mollusk. The animal senses this and coats it with layers of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, which is the same material used to build its shell.

-The crystalline structure of nacre reflects light in a unique way, giving "nacreous" pearls their high luster.

-A pearl's size and shape depend on the species of mollusk that produced it, how long it took to form, the size and shape of the nucleus, and where the pearl formed inside the animal.

-The cultured pearl industry (inseminating mollusks with a seed) has developed techniques to produce pearls.

-Since the introduction of the cultured pearl in the early 1900s by Japanese inventor Kokichi Mikimoto, pearls are available to the average person.

-More pearls are produced now than at any time in human history.

-Since pearls are the product of a biological process, the surface often has minor irregularities.

-When purchasing pearls, consider luster, size, shape, color, and surface.

-Pearls occur naturally in a wide array of colors, ranging from white or gold to purple or black, depending on the type of mollusk that produced the pearl and the environment.

-Because every pearl is different, it could take 10 years to make a necklace by matching pearls.

-Make sure your hair spray and perfume are dry before you put on your pearls because the chemicals can damage them.