All about Pearls

I was sifting through old photos when I came across lots of different images of pearl necklaces, earrings and other jewellery. I had been to the pearl factory in Isle of Wight a couple of months back, but for the love of all things shiny (because pearls are shiny…) I couldn’t figure out what possessed me to take thirty-five photos of the pearls. Seemed a little obsessive and I’m not really much into photography anyway. My hands always shake and the images tend to come out either wonky or blurred. Its a work in progress type of skill. (This is also why I never take selfies) 

Anyway, that’s when I came across a beautiful gem (because pearls are gems, gettit?  again with the puns. Sincerest apologies…) of an image.

I think the reason why I was apparently so fascinated by these stones was because not only are they used to make precious and super expensive jewellery but they also have uses in cosmetics, animal feeds, fertilisers and believe it or not – medicines!

Freshwater pearls come from freshwater molluscs. They  are made from the same material as the shell of the fresh water molluscs that grow them. When a foreign body enters a fresh water mollusc, eg. an oyster or a mussel, the mollusc in a bid to protect its delicate flesh, coats this foreign body with layers of the shell that the mollusc is made from. For this reason, freshwater pearls can come in an array of gorgeous colours.

Here are a few examples (all credit given to the Pearl Factory at IoW – their website is in a link below):


Note: Only natural pearls come from the shells of the creatures that make them. Synthetic pearls are made in a factory. Apparently you can tell the difference between real pearls and fake pearls by feeling the texture of the surface. If its smooth, its probably synthetic.

Pearl farming is tightly regulated to maintain the natural population of molluscs in the wild.  Due to its abundance in Japan, China and other Eastern countries it brings the wealth of an international trade to the poorer parts of the world. Cultured pearls are created by nucleating a oyster with a mother of pearl bead and a mussel with the mantle tissue of other mussels. Each oyster can create 2-3 pearls and each mussel can create 30-50 pearls. Remarkable, really.

Not only are pearls beautiful to wear and fascinating to observe the creation of, but pearls have inherent medicinal properties. The chinese and Japanese have used pearls in medicines for thousands of years. It got me thinking. What was in these shells that made pears a good medicine? I did some research into it and this is what I found:

  • Pearl Powder (crushed freshwater or saltwater pearls that cannot be used in jewellery) can be applied on the skin which stimulates fibroblasts which accelerate collagen formation and wound healing
  • Pearl shells are made up of at least 30 trace minerals, a number of amino acids and a really high concentration of calcium. Really useful to give to people who have low calcium in their blood.
  • Various studies have shown using pearl powder has efficacy in reducing inflammation, tooth and gum pain, relaxing muscles and helping with indigestion and bowel problems.

And its not just Japan and China. Europeans used it in the 19th century as a form of powder for the skin. It also has importance in Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India where it was used to cure tuberculosis and as an antidote to poisons.

I think its quite plausible that natural fresh water pearls have many medicinal properties. After all they’re created from shells of sea-life. And these shells must be able to protect their owners from many insults and toxins. Problem is pearls are just too pretty to be eaten as drugs, don’t ya think? Paracetamol is a lot uglier and cheaper to manufacture!

Below are a few links of interest:

  • click here to visit the website for the pearl factory in Isle of Wight
  • Click hereto learn more about how pearls are made
  • click hereto read more on the medicinal properties of pearls

That’s all for now





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