What is Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl is the common name for an iridescent coating which is found inside the inner shell of some molluscs. That coating is composed of aragonite and calcite, which protects them from foreign particles and parasites.

Mother of Pearl

History of Mother of Pearl

There is evidence of Mother of Pearl being highly regarded in Mesopotamia, as it was often used to honor royalty. Intricate inlays were placed in silver pieces as far back as 2600 B.C. Scientist interpret this as evidence to the sophistication of the Mesopotamian society.

Artifacts made from mother of pearls were in use in China which date back into the bronze age of the Shang Dynasty. But their popularity raised during Ming emperors (1368-1644 AD)

Similar to the Mesopotamian culture, Mother of pearl was used to honor royal or high-class citizens in Egypt. It has been discovered in ancient pyramids and tombs. The most famous ornament was found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Religious followers on pilgrimage journeys to Bethlehem would often take pieces of Mother of Pearl derived from the Red Sea as a souvenir. Franciscan monks taught this art to them in 15th century.

Courtesy thejerusalemgiftshop.com

Mother of Pearl Buttons

In the mid of 20th century, mother of pearl was used to produce shiny buttons. Before the popularity of south sea region as most popular destination for south sea pearls, it was famous for its mother of pearl business.

Mother of Pearl Buttons

Pearls from Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl is used to produce nucleus beads. The inner shell of the molluscs is cut into pieces and machines made these pieces into round. These round nucleus beads are planted inside the oysters, which then secrete nacre around the nucleus and results in the formation of pearl.

The Shell

Outer Layer

The outer layer of mollusc shell is known as Periostracum. It is entirely composed of organic conchiolin.

Middle Layer

The middle layer is known as ostracum or prismatic layer. This layer is composed of tiny hexagonal calcite crystals. It provides the stability to the last layer.

Inner Layer

The last or the final layer is called mother of pearl layer. It is also known as hypostracum. Mother of pearl consists of calcium carbonate which contains millions of crystal aragonite platelets.

Crystalline Effect

Transparent layer of aragonite platelets mimics wavelengths of visible light which enables the light rays to be absorbed scattered and reflected back at the viewer in different shades resulting in the phenomenon of iridescence.