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Rare Pearls

September 16th, 2011 Jewelry

A relatively little known fact is that pearls don't always come from oysters, mussels and clams. Some forms of pearls come from conchs, snails, scallops, quahogs and perhaps even coconuts!

Conch pearls are found inside giant sea snails, or Queen Conchs. These conchs are found in tropical waters off of Florida and the West Indies and are harvested primarily for their meat. The pearls aren't made of nacre (the material commonly used by mollusks) and have a unique pattern of flame-like white designs beneath the surface of the pearl. The colors of the pearls vary, but include reds, pinks, purples, oranges and gold.

Melo pearls are very rare and come from melo melo snails found off of the Southeast Asian coast. They're not made out of nacre either and are generally very large and round. They can be tan or brown, but the most prized color is orange. Melo melo snails make pearls the same way as oysters, from a coating built up around an irritant (such as sand). All melo pearls are natural because attempts to cultivate them haven't yet worked.

Scallop pearls come from scallops off the coast of California and are sometimes called Lion's Paw pearls because of the shape of the scallop's shell. The pearls vary in size and shape, but tend to have a mosaic pattern and can be different shades of white, pink, purple and orange. Fishermen find the pearls every now and then, but since they shuck scallops very fast, shells often get thrown overboard before they're thoroughly inspected for pearls.

Quahog pearls are found in quahog clams, which have very hard shells. The pearls are generally white with purple swirls blending in. The pearls can be very large, often twice the size of regular pearls, but they're also very rare.

Some naturalists claim that coconuts can produce white, opaque pearls. There are a few on display, but since no one has actually ever seen them inside of a coconut, the pearls may be hoaxes that are really pearls from giant clams. Real or not, coconut pearls are certainly an interesting concept!