News from the Oyster Expert

A lot of people ask while I’m working at the oyster bar, “Do these oysters have pearls in them?”

The answer is, it depends, but more then likely is no.

To have a pearl in an oyster it must have a foreign object enter it.  This is unlikely but it does happen.  The foreign object must than irritate the nacre which is what lines the inside of the shell. The mantle then must cover the irritant. The mantle is the organ that forms the oyster’s shell, by using the minerals from the food the oyster has eaten. After this all occurs over the course of several months a pearl forms. But it more than likely isn’t the nice pearl you will see a pretty woman wearing, because natural pearls come out uneven or blackish gray in color.

Now we come to quality. Is a saltwater pearl better than a freshwater pearl? It depends what year you asked this question. Today though freshwater pearls are the way to go based on price not necessarily on quality. Freshwater pearls are actually grown in mussels, one mussel can produce up to 15 or so pearls. While one salt water pearl oyster can only produce one pearl per oyster. Fresh water pearls are any size from 2 to 10 millimeters. Freshwater pearls have steadily increased in the market so the market price is lower. There is only one way to tell the value without looking under a microscope or having a trained eye.

If you put the pearl in your mouth and if it is gritty it is a saltwater pearl which is of higher value rather than the smooth finish of  a freshwater pearl. Overtime, I am sure fresh water pearls will improve and be the “new” saltwater pearl.

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