What are Mabe Pearls?

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Mabe Pearls

Mabe blister Pearls are quite different from what you might consider “normal” pearls. The reason for this stems from the way that mabe pearls are formed. Mabe pearls are considered to be “semi-spherical cultured pearls”. Instead of growing inside the body of the mollusk creature, as is the case with other pearls, mabe pearls grow against the inside shell.

This process causes Mabe pearls to have a flat side, as opposed to being relatively spherical, or at least rounded like standard pearls. This also explains why mabe pearls are frequently called “half pearls”. Mabe pearls come in a wide range of beautiful colors, which span from light pinks, to more bluish shades. The unique nacre of the mabe oyster allows for hues that are quite brilliant and rainbow-like. Their brilliance is quite breathtaking at times, especially in the rarest color, which consists of pink with gold swirls. It is this type of color which brings the value to the Mabe pearls, as well as their rare superiority in texture and luster.

To culture a mabe pearl, the process is different than culturing round pearls. It is accomplished by inserting the nucleus flush against the side of the mollusk – which is the Mabe Pearl Oyster (Pteria penguin), also called Penguin Wing Oyster – causing the oyster to make its nacre deposits over the nucleus, and against the inside of its shell, forming a semi-spherical pearl. The Mabe pearl oyster, also referred to as the penguin wing oyster – is what is used as the mother shell for Mabe pearls. These are highly distributed across the world’s tropical and semi-tropical seas, making them readily available to many pearl farmers at different ends of the globe.

Due to this one flattened side, mabe pearls become the ideal choice for jewelry such as earrings and rings which allow for a secure setting, and a concealed flat back.

The mabe pearl first reached its popularity in the end of the 19th century, and from that time until the mid 20th century, many different efforts were made to attempt to cultivate the mabe pearl – most of which were in vain. Many hearts were broken, and most tries were fruitless. However, some pearl farmers continued to persevere with their research, and finally established breeding techniques for the mabe pearl oyster in 1970, followed five years later by the mass production of cultured pearl harvests.

Today, the production of cultured mabe pearls has become quite stable, and the results are absolutely gorgeous. Depending on the desired size, 2 to 6 years are needed for each pearl. However, for those who enjoy the mabe pearl, it’s well worth the wait.

The producers wait patiently for many years while the mabe pearl oyster work their magic resulting in a thick, lustrous nacre (pearl coating) which gives the Mabe pearl its color and luster.

When ready, the Mabe pearls are harvested and carefully graded according to size, color, luster and other quality characteristics.

Hemispheric Shape - A Distinct Characteristic
The Mabe pearl develops in a hemispheric form, with a flat back. While in the oyster a Mabe pearl is actually considered a blister pearl not a mabe pearl. After the blister pearl has been 'worked' it then becomes a Mabe pearl. Blister pearls are worked by cutting the pearl out of the shell with a circle-bit drill. The nucleus is then removed and replaced with filler. The back of the pearl is capped with a piece of mother-of-pearl to complete the Mabe pearl.

The mabe pearl oyster produces exquisitely colored and highly iridescent nacre. The colors of the penguin oyster pearl are rich and exotic; an inspiration from nature’s spectrum of rainbow colors.

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