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Can Snails Make Pearls?
Abalones are large snails with a beautiful secret. Brown and gray on the outside, covered in seaweed, crawling slowly into the intertidal areas of rocks while remaining firmly attached to them using a muscular foot, Abalones deposit an iridescent mother-of-pearl nacre inside their shell.
Abalones are a marine gastropod, a sea snail that resembles a typical garden snail while also bearing a single spiral shell on its back. Along with Conch and Melo melo snails, Abalones are one of the few gastropods that are capable of producing pearls.
Abalones live in shells up to 20 or 30 cm in size and can survive in cold or warm waters, which has supported their wide geographic habitat. They are commonly found off the coasts of the western US, Mexico, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Although most abalone live between 10 and 20 years, they can reach 40 or 50 years. A delicacy in some areas of the world, Abalones have historically been harvested by hand for their meat with shells used for ornaments, glasses and even coins.
As with pearls that come from a mollusk like an oyster, an abalone’s pearls are made by depositing thousands of layers of an organic substance called nacre. Their pearly inner shell is usually more colorful than that of bivalve molluscs such as oysters and often displays a stunning combination of blue, green, pink, purple and silver.
Natural Abalone pearls are quite rare and until the last century were relatively unknown in the geological markets. With their unique color and baroque horn shapes, these pearls are now highly sought after by jewelry designers and collectors. One of the largest natural Abalone pearls ever found is the Great Pink Pearl, which was valued in 1991 at $4.7 million. Round symmetrical abalone pearls remain very rare and can take many years to form.
Attempts to produce cultured pearls with abalone have been recorded since the late 19th century in several countries. The main pearl farms today are in New Zealand and California. The main challenge for pearl farmers is that the animal’s blood does not clot and, if the animal is accidentally injured during the surgical insertion of a core, it can bleed to death. For this reason, Abalone mabe bubble pearls are more commonly cultivated by pearl farmers as no cutting is required to start Abalone making a bubble pearl.
Although large sea snails like Abalones secretly make very valuable and rare pearls, beautiful cultured mabe Abalone pearls are also made into pendants and earrings that are quite affordable for jewelry lovers.
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