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Meaning of Pearl:
The word ‗pearl‘ is derived from the Latin word pirula which means pear, that is in
accordance to the pear shape of the pearls. The beauty of pearl is an object of adoration and a
barometer of wealth. Pearl is counted among the nine gems and needs no cutting or polishing
to bring out its lustre. All over the world, pearl has been a subject of folklore and is also a
subject of one of the most modern sciences — genetic engineering.

The credit for the production and development of modern pearl culture goes to Japan. The
initial success was achieved in 1893 by Kokichi Mikimoto, who is considered as the ‗Pearl
King‘ and the Father of Pearl Culture industry. From the initial success the technique of pearl
culture was developed and perfected.

2. Meaning of Nacre – The Mother of Pearl

Nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, is a crystalline substance that creates the iridescent
visual effect attributed to pearls. Nacre is an organic substance secreted by mollusks over an
intruding irritant or implanted nucleus. It is a strong and resilient material that is lightweight
and transparent, allowing light to pass through its surface, creating a subtle glow on the
pearl‘s surface.

3. Difference between pearl and nacre

Iridescent shiny materials are a secretion by an oyster or mollusk on the inside of the shell,
this is usually known as nacre or Mother of Pearl. This lining protects the shellfish from
abrasions and irritants that can get inside the shell. When a foreign object such as a piece of
sand enters the shell, the lining protects the oyster and the nacre begins to build up on the
foreign object – as such pearls are formed.

The shiny nacre that develops on the inside of the shell and essentially ―gives birth‖ to a pearl
by transferring that nacre to the foreign object is the mother of pearl. The pearl is the shaped
nacre formed on the foreign object.

Mother of Pearl is shaped like the shell – and so it can cover larger areas such as watch faces,
whereas a pearl is usually shaped round and made into beads etc.
4. Pearl Oyster

Pearl oysters are members of the phylum Mollusca and belong to the class Bivalvia. A
pearl-producing mollusk can live in freshwater or saltwater. Freshwater mollusks are referred
to as mussels while saltwater mollusks are referred to as oysters. While the name "pearl
oyster" suggests a close relationship with other types of oysters, pearl oysters are actually a
distinct species from edible oysters and have important anatomical and behavioural
differences. There are a small number of mollusks capable of producing a pearl and only
those mollusks that have shells lined with nacre (NAY-kur), the pearlescent substance inside
the animal's shell produce the pearls used in the jewellery industry.

5. Marine Water Oysters

Pinctada is a genus of saltwater oysters, marine bivalve mollusks in the family Pteriidae, the
pearl oysters. These oysters have a strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as
"mother of pearl".

5.1 Pinctada margaritifera, commonly known as the black-lip pearl oyster, is a species of
pearl oyster, a saltwater clam, a marine bivalvemollusk in the family Pteriidae. This species is
common in the Indo-Pacific within tropical coral reefs. The oysters are harvested wild from
coral reefs and are also commonly grown in aquaculture, both primarily taking place in the
Indo-Pacific region. P. margaritifera occur in coral reef areas. These suspension feeders are
able to thrive in low phytoplankton conditions. The pearl oyster attaches itself
to barnacles and other hard substrates via a byssus. They thrive at intertidal and subtidal
zones, at depths from the low tide to up to 75 meters.
5.2 Pinctada maxima is a species of pearl oyster, a marine bivalve mollusk in the
family Pteriidae, the pearl oysters. There are two different color varieties: the White-lipped
oyster and the Gold-lipped oyster. These bivalves are the largest pearl oysters in the world.
They have a very strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as "mother of pearl"
and are important to the cultured pearl industry as they are cultivated to produce South Sea

6. Fresh water pearl oysters

the freshwater pearl mussels of the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae. Pearls are
also produced from freshwater mussel species unrelated to pearl oysters. These freshwater
species include Hyriopsis cumingii, Hyriopsis schlegelii, and a hybrid of the two species.

6.1 Hyriopsis cumingii: The majority of Chinese freshwater pearls are produced using
this mussel in lakes and ponds in Zheijiang Province, which produced around 1500
tons of freshwater pearls in 2005, about 73% of the world freshwater pearl market.
The largest freshwater pearl market-place is Zhuji City, also known as the ―Pearl
6.2 Hyriopsis schlegelii: It has its common name as ―Biwa Pearly Mussel‖. It is a pearl
mussel native to Lake Biwa, the largest and most ancient lake in Japan. Since the
time of peak production in 1971, when Biwa pearl farmers produced six tons of
cultured pearls, pollution and overharvesting have caused the virtual extinction of this

7. Formation of Pearl
7.1 Natural Pearl: Pearl is formed due to secretion of the mantle tissue. The nacreous
layer of the pearl is secreted by the outer epithelial layer of the mantle. This layer has the
capability to rearrange and regenerate itself and remain viable when disturbed and also
when transplanted in other tissues of the animal. The inner epithelium and the connective
tissue, on the other hand, would disintegrate when transplanted.

A natural pearl is formed by the following ways:

(1) The outer epithelial layer of the mantle accidentally falls into the body of the pearl oyster.

(2) It regenerates a sac consisting of a single layer of cells, thus forming the pearl sac.

(3) Sometimes a foreign body accidently enters into the body of the oyster, when the shells
remain open, and gets trapped between the shell and the mantle. The outer epithelium of the
mantle invaginates and form the pearl sac.

(4) Inside the pearl sac, as a result of secretion of nacre, a natural pearl grows.

(5) The secretion of nacre continues till the end of life of the pearl oyster, thereby
forming/producing a beautiful, natural pearl.
7.2 Cultured Pearl
The technical requirements for establishment of pearl and its successful operation are briefly
described below:
Farm Preparation:
 Selection of Farm Site: Site with natural features, regular temperatures and gentle
 Construction of Farm: The whole pearl farm system is based on series of floating
wooden rafts. Ten units of wooden rafts are used. Each raft consists of two to five
pieces of wood making the total length to 20 ft. The raft is covered with wire mesh
baskets, each of which house 10 oysters.

Collecting Oysters: Divers collect the oysters from bottom of the sea. They are cleaned,
sized and transferred to pearl farm.


 Preparation of Graft: Graft is obtained from donor oyster. Mantle is needed by

the host oyster to accept the nucleus. The mantle is located on the outer section of
the oyster and Mantle produces the nacre which forms pearl. Before a graft is
taken from the mantle, the oysters are starved for several days to slow down the
metabolism of the oyster. This helps to decrease the risk of core rejection and
open the oyster easily.
 Attaching the Graft: Graft is inserted into the slit. The oyster is opened with
special wedges and pliers, then a scalpel slit is made in the soft tissue near the
reproductive organ and a graft of living mantle is inserted into the slit.
 Inserting the core: Nucleus core is placed in the slit and the oyster is then returned
back to the water. The inserted core irritates the oyster, provoking it to gradually
coat the core with thin layers of mother of pearl nacre. After some time, the
oysters are collected, and x-rayed to see whether the implants have been accepted.
Oysters which have rejected the implant are returned to the water and are once
again operated. The oysters which have accepted the implant are transferred to the
pearl farm. The person who is seeding must be extremely careful not to harm the
tiny pea-crab which lives unharmed within every healthy oyster. It is presumed
that the crab assists the oyster by keeping it clean and by sharing the debris which
the oyster sucks in.
Caring the oyster:

The shells which have been collected and transferred to the pearl farm are placed in baskets
or panels which are attached to long lines connected to the floating rafts. The rafts are
dropped down into the ocean with the oyster securely inside the basket, where they remain
until they become operated on for further seeding.

The oyster can produce more than one pearl in its lifetime. Regular cleaning of the shells to
remove seaweed results in better pearls plus makes them easier to handle. The cleaning is
done by a machine which uses water jets and brushes to clean off any seaweed. The oysters
need very tender loving care so as to be productive when harvested.


After 2-3 years, the oysters are harvested. It is necessary to make a trial harvest to determine
whether the pearls have a sufficient coating. If it is not sufficient then an additional six
months to a year of culturing is necessary. The oysters are split open and pearl bags are cut
by the scalpel to remove the pearls. Collected pearls should be thoroughly dried after the
harvest to prevent loss of luster.

8. Types of Pearls:

(a) Natural pearls:

Natural pearls may be formed within the oyster or mussels by either accidental entrance of a
solid or accidental wound within the shell muscles or tissues. Pearls so produced are called
natural pearls and are very rare because of their accidental origin.

(b) Cultured pearls:

Cultured pearls are produced by human interference, when the pearls are produced through
the process of culture of pearl producing oysters or mussels.

(c) Artificial pearls:

Such pearls are cheap imitations made of plastics, glass, fish scales, etc. with an artificial
9. Types of Rafts:

Raft culture is considered to be one of the most suitable farming methods in sheltered bays.
The size of the rafts can be altered according to the convenience of the situation. A raft of
6×5 m in size can be easily constructed and floated with 4 buoys. Rafts are usually
constructed with logs of teak, venteak or casuarina wood, of chosen length with the bottom of
about 10 cm diameter tapering to 6 cm diameter at the tip. These logs are arranged as per the
requirement and lashed with coir ropes. Floats are attached to the raft to give buoyancy. The
floats can be sealed empty diesel drums of 200 l capacity with fibreglass coating, mild steel
barrels painted with antisaline/anticorrosive paints or FRP styrofoam floats.

A culture raft floated with

mild steel barrels.

A culture raft with FRP

styrofoam buoys

Unit raft system is found to be convenient and well suited to the Indian sea conditions. Rafts
are moored with anchors at opposite sides with tested quality chains and their direction is
decided according to the prevalent wind direction at the specific site.
Culture raft constructed A FRP styrofoam
with teak poles. buoy; A mild steel buoy;

In the long-line culture method, spherical or cylindrical floats which are connected by
horizontal synthetic rope or chain are used (Plate IV D; Fig. 4 D). The oyster cages are
suspended from the ropes. This system is good for open sea conditions. In another method of
hanging, a hole is drilled near the hinge of the pearl oyster. A small thread is put through the
hole, which is then tied to a straw rope coated with tar. The straw ropes are hung from a raft.

Oyster long-line
culture system.

10. Conclusion:

“The world is your oyster, it is up to you to find the pearls.”

Several studies have been conducted by the Madras Fisheries Department in the 1930s. In
1972, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) took up intensive research on
pearl culture at Tuticorin achieving a breakthrough in July 1973 when it produced free
spherical cultured pearls by employing the mantle graft implementation technique.. Based on
the technical know-how provided by the CMFRI, a company has been established at
Tuticorin to produce cultured pearls.

1. – Biwa Pearly mollusks

2. - Types of Rafts
3. - Types of pearls, Marine and fresh water oyster
varieties, Formation of Pearl
4. Google - wikipedia