Use of pearls

Pearls are intimately linked to human history.

Reports confirm that pearl shells were already used as decorative objects in 4th millennium BC Egypt. They feature in major religious texts such as the Bible and the Koran. The origin of pearls was often explained in mythological and cosmological terms.

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.

Pearl types

Marine & freswater cultured pearls

Click on the pearl type to learn more