Mother of Pearl
Mother of pearl is the name given to the smooth iridescent lining commonly found inside the shells of oysters and mussels. Created by these animals to protect their bodies from parasites and foreign objects, this substance is also known as “nacre” from the Arabic word for shell “naqqarah”. When a mollusc is invaded by a parasite that the animal can not eject, it covers the object in concentric layers of nacre forming mother of pearl. If this process continues a pearl is formed.
Major sources of mother of pearl come from the pearl oyster which can be found in the warm tropical seas of Asia. Other producers include the USA, Europe and Japan which provide mother of pearl from freshwater pearl mussels.
Mother of pearl was given its name by Queen Elizabeth I in the 15th century. Its beauty, brilliance and relative affordability has made it increasingly popular today. Throughout history, mother of pearl has been used extensively, not only in jewellery but also for a variety of other uses - from decorative inlays in furniture to shirt buttons to key tops on musical instruments.
Mother of pearl is available in a variety of different colours from pale pinks and blues to vivid iridescent blue, white and black. This beautiful gem is hard wearing and is commonly used to provide decorative detail in watches and silver jewellery.
The Mohs’ scale measures a gem's relative hardness on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the stones “scratchability”. Diamond is the hardest at 10, sapphire and rubies measure 9, with amber at 2 ½. Pearls are not as hard as some other gems measuring around 3 ½ on the Mohs’ scale.
Care and Cleaning:
Mother of pearl is a porous substance therefore it’ s surface can easily be damaged by chemicals. Contact with harsh cleaning solutions and perfume should be avoided as this will remove the gems natural sheen, affecting its appearance. The use of ultra sonic and steam cleaners found in jewellery stores should also be avoided.
When cleaning silver jewellery set with mother of pearl it is better to use a cloth dipped in silver cleaning liquid to avoid exposing the stone to the solution. To keep your jewellery looking its best, use a soft damp cloth or a solution specifically for cleaning mother of pearl and pearl items.
Legend and Lore:
Oriental and Chinese cultures believe that certain precious stones have important symbolisms and powers. The Chinese believe that mother of pearl attracts wealth and power and a better income to the person that keeps it. It is also said to symbolise prosperity and good luck and is often given as a present to wish good luck to a friend or loved one.