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Uses of pearls

Photo courtesy of SSEF

Pearls and pearl-oyster shells have long been used as jewellery items by humans. However, these are not the sole uses for this renewable resource. The adductor muscle can be eaten and is used in cuisine in a number of different regions. The shell itself is often worked either into simple jewellery or more complex furniture and other decorative items. Finally, the pearl oyster shell is increasingly used for its health benefits.

Historically, the largest use of the pearl resource was for mother of pearl (MOP), also called nacre. This shell material was used for buttons and this aided the emergence of important shell collecting industries in Mexico, Australia, French Polynesia. The finding of natural pearls was often just a side-product of this activity.