Other Types of Pearl

We know pearls to be from oysters, with different types of pearls coming from different areas, or different species of oyster. These are the nacreous, beautiful pearls that we're accustomed to, but there are other animals that produce pearls too. These are far rarer and not cultured by pearl farmers. A pearl is defined as being made of, or coated with nacre. These two examples of other types of pearl are non-nacreous, and are often described as porcelaneous instead.

Conch Pearls

A conch is a common name that is applied to a number of different sized sea snails and their shells, although it is generally given to those where the shell comes to a point at both ends. Conch pearls are non-nacreous, calcareous stones produced by the queen conch mollusc (strombus gigas). These live primarily in the Caribbean, and are similar in composition to kidney stones found in humans. However, much prettier than kidney stones, conch pearls are usually a vivid pink colour, and often show a flame-like reflective pattern. They have also been found in deep reds and oranges, and the colour is believed to be based on the location of the pearl within the mantle of the conch, and the age of the conch itself. Pink pearls are found in mature conchs, whilst those found in younger conchs are typically more yellow. If the animal is in a healthy environment, the colours will be brighter; if the animal is in a polluted or unsuitable environment, the pearls can be brown or beige.

 

Conch pearls come in the same range of shapes as oyster pearls, but weigh more and can be very large. A conch pearl with few imperfections, that is a bright colour and has a flame like pattern can be worth thousands of pounds, since they are all natural and no way of culturing them has been found yet. These are very rare, and aren't harvested for pearls, but the meat from the queen conch is desirable and hunted by fishermen, so finding a pearl is a bonus.

Melo Melo Pearls

These pearls are also incredibly rare and desirable, coming from the large gastropod (sea-snail) melo melo. These live in the waters of the South China Sea, as far as Singapore and the Andaman Sea. These snails are one of the largest species of snails, and hunt smaller nails in the shallow waters of the warm south east Asia seas. They aren't nacreous, but have the same flame-like reflections under the surface in them as the conch pearls. Melo melo pearls are generally very large and round, with the largest ever found being almost the size of a golf ball. These come in a range of colours, from tan to dark brown, but with many being a vivid orange colour, which is the most sought after. A single large melo pearls can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially if it is vivid orange and quite round.

The colour of melo melo pearls can fade over time, especially if they spend a lot of time in sunlight. Pearl farmers and researchers have attempted to culture these pearls, but so far with no success. Therefore, every single melo melo pearl is natural, and have a very high price tag.

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