Is the “Mother of Pearl” the Same as Pearls?

Mother of Pearl

The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.” This statement is not an exaggeration. It perfectly embodies the clout a pearl holds for its elegance and beauty. But what about the mother-of-pearl? Is it the mother of all gems? Or the mother of all pearls? Or a distinct type of pearl? This brilliantly dazzling iridescent substance is laden with an aura of enigma owing to the many “whats” around it. Let’s decode some of the mystery and go over everything you need to know about the Mother-of-Pearl.

Mother of Pearl: How Is It Formed?

Though the term is not used very frequently, and even when it is, we incautiously and interchangeably use it with the word “pearls”, there is a host of differences between the two. “Mother of Pearl” is an organic gemstone, just like pearls, but the journey of its formation is different and no less fascinating than that of pearls. We all swoon over the much popular pristine, glowing-white pearls, but what is mother-of-pearl? Well, it is the hard, silvery inside layer of oyster shells that shimmers with the most vibrant colors when held up to the light.


Still not clear?

Let’s talk science here. Wikipedia defines the mother-of-pearl as “the NACRE- an organic-inorganic composite substance generated as an inner shell layer of three types of mollusks- pearl oysters, freshwater mussels, and abalone.

In simpler words, the mother of pearl is the nacre that all oysters secrete to form the inner shell layer of the mollusks. When a natural irritant enters the mollusk, then, in an attempt to protect itself, the oyster releases layers and layers of nacre to coat the irritant. Over a few years, these thick layers of nacre take the shape of beautiful gemstone pearls, while the mother of pearl is the shiny, thin layer of nacre coating the inner surface of the mollusk in which the pearl forms. The name mother comes from the belief that the mother nacre shields and bears the pearl just the way a mother does to her child.

Such is the marvel of nature – the nacre (mother of pearl), a magnificent piece of beauty to us, is actually the protective mechanism for oysters against external objects and aberrations.

Is Mother of Pearl a Real Pearl?

It totally is!

But it is still called the “Mother of pearl”, and not just pearl!

Interestingly, the nacre, which makes the mother-of-pearl, is also the main component of pearls. Therefore, we observe the same shimmer and iridescence in pearls as in the mother of pearls.

Fun Fact: No two mother-of-pearl pieces are alike. Hence, the pieces created with this material are one-of-a-kind.

Why Is It Called the Mother of Pearl?

There are different answers to this question.

As per popular belief, it is called mother-of-pearl because it is the thin membrane of shells out of which pearls are ‘born,’ well, not technically, but that it does shields the pearl and hence, calling it mother makes absolute sense!

But what if we say that some connote the term “mother” in mother-of-pearl with “scrums, remnants, or something residual?” Yes, you read that right. ‘Mother’ in the mother-of-pearl did not imply what it does today in the 1950s.

In the past, the term mother in mother-of-pearl was identified with the nacre shell, supposed to be a customarily left behind residual substance or remnant, a by-product of the pearl formation process. 

It is unjust to equate something so exquisite with such a demeaning metaphor. Therefore, in modern times, this redundant analogy has been discarded, and the belief holding “mother-of pearl” synonymous with the pearl’s mother is more widely accepted.

The History Behind the Mother of Pearl

Mother-of-pearl’s history has been a dazzling one. Its existence may be traced back to ancient Mesopotamian, Indian, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations. And, if we turn back the pages of its past, we will find its primary association with royalty and people with wealth.

The ancient Egyptians, for instance, used mother-of-pearl to adorn silver jewelry and to honor royalty. In addition to jewelry, the glowing gemstone was also used to embellish furniture and architectural structures. We can find similar evidence within the Ottoman Empire when mother-of-pearl inlays were used in buildings and thrones. It was also well-liked in Chinese civilization during the Shah and Ming Dynasties.

However, the most illustrious age for mother-of-pearl was the nineteenth century, when it was used to construct snuff cases, inkwells, card cases, and other items alongside jewelry. Even today, we frequently see the material on watch dials, home decor products, fine jewelry, luxurious cutleries, and more. If you want to add a tinge of refined luxury and understated glamor to any product, embellish it with “mother-of-pearl”. That’s the way to go!

The Symbolism

The mother-of-pearl has a mystical aura surrounding it, just like pearls do. It gives you visual serenity at first glance.

This iridescent element was given several meanings and qualities in ancient cultures. It still has significance in gem symbology. For instance, mother-of-pearl is a sign of luck and prosperity in the core tenets of Feng Sui. Consequently, nacre accessories are still given as a token of luck and well-wishes. Maybe not particularly touted as a birthstone, but “Mother of Pearl” jewelry is highly desired as the 1st– anniversary gift.

It is also believed that this beautiful creation of nature possesses a profoundly relaxing impact. Therefore, if you discover having trouble controlling your emotions, it may be time to wear mother-of-pearl jewelry, particularly when paired with Rubellite. This unique combo will calm your soul by enhancing your intuition and bringing you back to your core.

Let this breathtaking nature’s gift be your savior and get you some inner piece!

Value and Worth

The beauty of mother of pearl is undeniable, yet it is a substance that is frequently found in oysters or shells. So, the monetary value of the mother-of-pearl is not sky-high. Instead, this element is significantly more plentiful, and its availability is not an issue, making it reasonably affordable and simple to purchase.

But its monetary value cannot, and should not, judge its beauty and elegance. If you truly have a taste for something chic, you must rise above the price tag and see the real beauty of mother-of-pearl. After all, money cannot judge the value of elegance, can it?

Mother-of-Pearl and Pearl: The Differences

This is pretty uncomplicated. The mother-of-pearl is the shell of mollusks in (some of) which pearls are born.

So, we can say that if pearls are babies, then the mother-of-pearl is the mother, as the name suggests. So, they are fundamentally different from each other.

The fact that many mollusks generate mother-of-pearl but not all of them produce pearls is another fundamental distinction between them. And this makes the former a commonly available element while the latter a rarer and more valuable one.

Mother of Pearl: The Test of Authenticity

Wondering whether your mother-of-pearl jewelry is authentic? Well, there’s a way to confirm that- the Pearl Tooth Test.

Simply press the piece you have against your teeth. If it’s made of plastic, the sound will be muffled. However, if you hear a “click” or “clank,” you should know that the item is genuine.

Mother of Pearl: Fashion Score

Anyone with an eye for refined beauty is captivated by its wonderful radiance. Like pearls, this gorgeous underwater organic creation naturally comes in an array of colors – white, ivory, silver, gray, green, blue, yellow, bronze, pink, and even black. Despite not being as renowned or expensive as pearls, mother-of-pearl is a perfect material for making jewelry and accessories. It is easily carved into watch dials or molded into jewelry such as bracelets, earrings, and pendants. Mother-of-pearl is cut and engraved onto metals and wood to create eye-catching home decor items like lamps and wall art.

Like all jewelry exquisite and stunning, Gabriel & Co. also has a spellbinding collection of mother of pearl jewelry ranging from earrings and rings to necklaces. Elegant, innovative designs boasting the finest mother-of-pearl embellishments that deserve to be a part of every stylish woman’s wardrobe ensemble. Style them with your looks for weekend brunches, cocktail parties, and family dinners; there will be compliments galore!

Mother of Pearl

Embrace the Beauty and Tranquility of Mother of Pearl

While most people adore mother-of-pearl’s beauty, some enjoy its calming and therapeutic properties. It does not matter if you don’t subscribe to gemstone symbolism; you can still buy mother-of-pearl accessories and jewelry pieces to add to your collection. Discover myriad designs at Gabriel & Co. and shop your favorites.

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