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The Making of a Pearl

Pink Pearl

Rare pink pearls

Pearls are the product of pain. For some unknown reason, the shell of the oyster gets pierced and an alien substance—a grain of sand–slips inside. On the entry of that foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. By and by, the irritant is covered and the wound is healed–by a beautiful pearl.

No other gem has such a fascinating history. It is the symbol of perseverance–a precious, tiny jewel conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment. Had there been no wounding, or irritating interruption, there could not have been a pearl.  What are the pearls in your life?

  1. Pearls are created by a mollusk with a shell. In fact, the same materials that create the animal’s shell go into the pearl itself. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not always an irritating grain of sand that prods an oyster into making a pearl. More likely, a stray food particle gets stuck under the shell.

    The mollusk coats the irritant with layers of aragonite and conchiolin, and the composite material is called nacre. That is what gives pearls their luster. At least one species of oyster can secrete nacre over an irritant at a rate of about 0.1mm to 0.2mm per year.

    But mollusks rarely create pearls naturally — only one out of 10,000 animals will produce a pearl in the wild. Since the 1930s, the vast majority of pearls have been created with the help of humans. Cultured pearls are created by surgically implanting a bead or piece of shell into a mature oyster. The bead or shell becomes the irritant around which the oyster naturally forms layers of nacre. The bigger the irritant, the bigger the final pearl.

  2. One pearl in my life is the piano. I’ve practised for hours, days, years to be able to play it well, and the gruelling hours of scales and studies paid off, by giving me something I can enjoy for a lifetime, and share with others. It brings joy to me and to those who come to hear me play.

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