Across the sea: An update on pearl localities

Two pearls from Tutufa bubo (38 and 31 carats, respectively); Figure 4 (bottom): Shell of the Tutufa bubo. Photos courtesy the Rankins Family

Two pearls from Tutufa bubo (38 and 31 carats, respectively); Figure 4 (bottom): Shell of the Tutufa bubo. Photos courtesy the Rankins Family

While largely confined to a small international market of connoisseurs, the renewed demand for natural pearls can, perhaps, be indicative of a new ‘prime time’ to come. Likewise, it may explain the sudden interest in ‘exotic’ pearls, originating from either marine gastropods or other non-Pinctada bi-valve mollusks. Contrary to those from Pinctada, however, exotic pearls usually have a non-nacreous structure.


A complete novelty are pearls from Tutufa bubo (Figures 3 and 4)—or ‘the giant frog snail,’—a gastropod occurring in the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Some examples of these varieties found in Baja California include the reddish-white lion’s paw pearls (Figure 5), which are found in the scallop Lyropecten subnodosus; black Atrina pearls from a pin shell of the Atrina genus; and spondylus pearls from the spiny oyster (Spondylus princeps, Spondylus calcifer).

In Europe, there is no longer production of freshwater pearls, as the European pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera is under protection and has largely disappeared. Today’s market concentrates on freshwater pearls from the United States, which still occur in a variety of shapes and natural colours.

American pearls experienced their heyday during the ‘pearl rush’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This era saw a sometimes frantic search for pearls in nearly all of the states along the Mississippi River, where about 30 species of freshwater mussels were found to produce pearls regularly.

Read entire article here: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/features/pearls-2021/

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