Wed, Jul 22nd 2009, 12:28
Pearls are formed by successive secretions from the mantle (or skin) of an oyster or mussel onto a foreign object within its shell.
The process of culturing a pearl takes from 2 to 5 years. A small particle is carefully implanted into the mantle of the oyster or mussel. The creature needs to be mature. The shell is carefully prised open and the particle grafted into the flesh of the oyster or mussel.
This particle is an irritant and over the next years the oyster or mussel will secrete a substance called Nacre to coat the particle. Successive coatings of the Nacre forms a mother-of-pearl sheen and eventually the particle is a round bead of iridescent pearl.
Pearl Culture requires time and patience. And at the end of it all, only about 30% of the implanted oysters or mussels will yield a pearl. Many of the creatures die or manage to eject the irritant out of their shell.