Pearls are selected for their size and color (hue). Careful color grading is extremely important. Pearls are then drilled from both sides, often at a place that is slightly flawed. They are then sorted, threated, and marketed.

Mabe pearls: 

Mabe pearls are cultured blister pearls. These are produced by inserting a half bead against the shell of the mollusk, after a layer of nacre has been deposited over the bead, the whole formation is cut out and the nacreous dome cemented onto a mother of pearl bed.


Biwa pearls:

Biwa pearls are produced at lake Biwa, Japan using freshwater clams. They are irregular in shape but have good color and luster. Instead of a bead a small square of mother of pearl in inserted into the clam. These pearls require three years to produce good results.

Natural or Cultured?

Distinction between these can often be made if the pearl is drilled because the size and nature of the seed can be   determined. For cultured pearls, you should see a mm or so beneath the surface.

The term "candling" refers to examination of pearls in strong light. This may reveal the mother of pearl bead. If the pearl is undrilled, an excellent method to distinguish cultured from natural pearls is to X-ray them.  Because the size of the seed differs, natural pearls less dense than most cultured pearls.

Information comparing Japanese and Chinese pearls.


The majority are strung as necklaces. Some are used in rings. Rejects are used in medicines as a source of calcium.

Preservation and damage

Conchiolin is prone to drying. If this occurs, the pearl becomes dull, the surface cracks and finally peels. Pearls are damaged by excess humidity, dryness, acids, perspiration, cosmetics, hair sprays, and other chemicals.


Pearls can also be dyed. Pearls are sometimes bleached to lighten their color.

Conch "Pearls"

Conch "pearls": because they lack nacre, these are not considered real pearls. They are often orange or pink in color. They form as concretions in conch shells.

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