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The Colors of Pearls    Natural Pearls

Abalone Pearl

Guinnes World Record certificate
The World's Largest Pearl is in the personal collection of K.C. Bell

The wirld's largest Abalone Pearl

 

"The abalone pearl is one of the most beautiful and unusual of pearls. It is one of the rarest...
The colors of the abalone pearl are rich and exotic...
The rarest and most highly prized offer rich peacock blue and green hues."..from "The Book of the Pearl" by Frederick Kunz


In 1907, the California legislature outlawed the capture of black abalones measuring less than twelve inches. As of this time there is not a lot of success in forcing the abalone to make pearls so abalone pearls remain very rare. Abalone is a primitive univalve (one shell) mollusk at least thirty million years old. There are eight varieties.     Abalone is found from Lower California to Alaska. Other types are found in Korea,Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

Large abalone pearls are found in images of Buddha made in 300 A.D.

Throughout history, there have been certain cultures that have placed little or no value on pearls and have focused instead on luminescent mother-of-pearl from mollusk shells.

Before the 19th century, Japanese shell divers who found pearls apparently did not bother to keep them and Polynesian children are said to have used pearls as marbles.

 

Price range: several hundred dollars each for small pearls to tens of thousands of dollars for rare world class gems. 

Although Abalone produces natural pearls they are rare. Statistical research indicates that a fine large pearl over 15mm is found in a low estimate of one per five hundred thousand to a more probable estimate of one pearl per nine hundred thousand animals. Reasons for rarity are that large pearls require approximately eight to ten years to form. Since animals are fished commercially for meat when they are four or five years old sufficient time has not allowed pearl formation. Also, not all Abalone produce pearls. A specific combination of factors must exist for natural pearl formation. For example:invasion of a foreign object,usually a living parasite, sufficient movement of the animal, correct immune system response, correct water temperature, and availability of correct diet.


     Natural Abalone pearls can vary in shape, color, and may be solid or hollow. Natural pearl shapes can vary from round or ovalish to flat baroques to giant horn shapes. Colors range from royal blues and greens to magentas and silver pinks to gold and bronze to silver and cremes and purples often times in brilliant combinations. Several pearls of different colors and shapes can be found in a single animal. Natural Abalone pearls are formed in thick nacreous layers joined together by organic conchiolin. This form is similar to the Oriental Pearl formation except that the nacreous layers are thicker.  Natural Abalone Pearls can be utilized in all types of jewelry and in rare instances pairs can be matched up and over time en suite sets can be painstakingly collected.

Abalone is the only mollusk that can be used commercially one hundred percent: its shell for inlay and buttons and carvings, its meat for food, its guts for fishing bait, and most importantly its rare natural pearls which are formed freely within the animal.

Perhaps the most interesting of the abalone fisheries is that on the shores of Quel Island, about sixty miles south of the Korean coast, which is inhabited largely by women. Dressed only in a scanty garment, these women swim out to the fishing grounds,distant several hundred yards in some cases, carrying with them a stout knife and a small sack suspended from a gourd. On reaching the reefs, they dive to the bottom,sometimes to a depth of six to eight fathoms. and by means of the knife, remove the abalones and place them in the sack. They may remain out for an hour, diving repeatedly until the sack is filled, when they swim back to the shore.Pearls are found only rarely; in one lot of one hundred shells, only five were found to contain pearls; two with three pearls each; two with two pearls each and one with a single pearl.

The flesh of the mollusk after it has been cleaned and dried, is quite popular  to eat and once pounded out and quickly cooked, it is very delicious.

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