How are Shell Pearls Made?

How are shell pearls made?

Thank you to Can Phu Company in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam which makes a large variety of man made shell pearls.

There is a place for shell pearls. Designers love them for their large sizes (up to 18cm for drops) and the vast variety of available colors. Beads made out of shells are fun and should be enjoyed.

Several of these steps are the same for making shell nuclei which form the basis for cultured Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls, even some freshwater pearls. The former freshwater pearl farm in Tennessee used shell nuclei for their lovely freshwater pearls. For cultured pearls nuclei the best shells are from USA rivers....even the Mississippi River, which is just a bike ride away from our sheep farm here in Iowa.

Here are the steps with photos:

    Vietnam Shell Beds
    First proper shells are collected from special shell beds. These are located at the red dots in this map of Vietnam where many shell pearls are made.

    Shell pearls raw material
    Shell pearls raw material is first cut into strips.

    Rounding Shell Pearls
    Rounding shell pearls mechanically.

    Shaping Shell Pearls
    Shaping shell pearls manually--watch those fingers!

    Vietnam Shell Beds
    First quality control for shell pearls.

    Drilling Shell Pearls
    Drilling shell pearls--one by one.

    Shell Pearls Quality Control
    A second shell pearls quality control.

    Stringing Shell Pearls
    Stringing shell pearls.

    Framing Shell Pearls
    Framing shell pearls.

    Protecting Shell Pearls
    Protecting shell pearls.

    Dyeing Shell Pearls
    Dyeing shell pearls--many colors available.

    Baking Shell Pearls
    Baking shell pearls.

    Polishing Shell Pearls
    Polishing shell pearls.

    Final Stringing for Shell Pearls
    Final stringing for shell pearls.

    Measuring Shell Pearls
    Measuring shell pearls.

    Final Quality Control for Shell Pearls
    Final quality control for shell pearls.

    Packing Shell Pearls
    Packing shell pearls.

    When making a texture test for real pearls by rubbing two pearls together and feeling the surface resistance or the tooth test when teeth can detect that same minor texture, be aware that these tests will often get the same results for shell pearls. In that regard, shell pearls can often pass for natural or cultural pearls. Just wanted you to be aware of that.

    How are shell pearls made? I hope these little photos help explain it.

    Go to main artificial pearl page after viewing how are shell pearls made.

    More about how shell pearls are made.

    Homepage for Karipearls

    Below are shell pearls for sale from various sellers on Ebay. These are made from shells and are not to be confused with cultured pearls. Beware that a common test for cultured pearls is to feel the friction when rubbing two cultured pearls together and that same friction is also felt when rubbing two shell pearls together. These mother of pearl MOP shell beads can be a nice substitute for cultured pearls.

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