Learning Library

Mother of Pearl Gemstone

As an organic gem (meaning a gem that is not a mineral but one which has been created by a  living  organism),  Pearls  and  Mother  of  Pearl have been sourced from our oceans for thousands of years.

Mother of Pearl is primarily sourced from the inside of shells and is associated with prosperity and good luck. Because of this it is often offered  as a gift for someone who may need good fortune  to come his or her way.

Records show that the beautiful iridescent lustre of Mother of Pearl has been enchanting jewellers for over 5000 years!  In China, Mother of Pearl  has been held in high regard for many thousands  of years and decorated objects were often taken  to temples as offerings. Because of this, there  are numerous references to this gem in Chinese  myths and legends. As they believed it helped  reduce  heart  palpitations,  dizziness  and  high  blood pressure, in the past the Chinese have also  used Mother of Pearl in medicines. It is still used  today in a variety of skin creams said to help  diffuse small spots and scars.

In the 1500’s Mother of Pearl was at a peak in its  popularity and over-sourcing meant that supplies  in  the  Persian  Gulf  were  almost  exhausted.  Consequently,  sailors  looked  further  afield  for the precious natural gem, and in 1568 the  Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana discovered  the Solomon Islands, which were rich in both  gold and Mother of Pearl. He named the islands  after King Solomon who, legend has it, owned a  secret source of mines that no one knew about;  Mendana believed that he had found them within  these islands. 

Nowadays, Pearls and Mother of Pearl can be  cultivated by humans and used for many purposes  such  as  decoration  on  musical  instruments,  watch faces and in exotic furniture.

The  correct  term  for  Mother  of  Pearl  is  in fact  Nacre,  (from  the  Arabic  word  for  shell “Naqqarah”) which is the same secretion from a  mollusc that forms a Pearl.

The name Mother of Pearl was in fact given to  the inner layer of a shell by Queen Elizabeth I.  As well as forming Pearls, the nacre is deposited  on  the  inside  of  the  mollusc  shell  creating  a  protective coating against parasites.

Mother of Pearl is extremely resilient and tough  due to its brickwork-like, layered composition  and it is these layers that provide the gem with  such glorious iridescence. 

text-align: justify;">The colour of the nacre can be extremely varied,  covering almost the whole spectrum from black  to  white.  It  is  determined  by  several  factors, the most important being: the type of shell, location in which the shell is found, the food  the  mollusc  eats  and  any  trace  metals  in  the  surrounding environment.

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Mother of Pearl and Marcasite combining to

create a stunning bracelet by Jewels of Valais.


Delicate colours of Mother of Pearl in

this lovely piece by Annabella.