Like all women, Marie loved pearls and cake. In her day, the only pearls available were natural pearls. They were so rare and expensive that only the noble and very rich could afford them. Only 1 in 20,000 oysters contains a natural pearl. That's a lot of shucking!

We think of the formation of a natural pearl as a "natural pregnancy." Oysters and mussels secrete crystals of calcium carbonate, which is called mother-of-pearl if it coats the inside of its shell and nacre if it covers an intruding irritant. The inside of an oyster is very delicate and cannot tolerate anything sharp that might invade its flesh. The oyster coats the abrasive intruder with nacre making the foreign particle smooth and tolerable. Thus a natural pearl is conceived.

These pearls are a result of "artificial insemination" as they're created with human intervention and perhaps a turkey baster. Around 1900, a process was developed where an oyster is injected with an irritant, usually a piece of mantle tissue or shell particle from a fellow oyster, in order to provoke the mollusk to secrete nacre to form a pearl. Less than one half of these "fertilized" oysters actually conceive a pearl.

At Pearls and Cake, we think of this pearl birthing process as "invitro-fertilization" or the "octomom method" because it involves considerable human assistance. The process of making an oyster shell pearl was only perfected a few years ago and has several stages. First, the base of the pearl is formed from the raw material of the oyster shell which is coated and polished to its final shape. In order to produce a good quality pearl, a key ingredient is this mother-of-pearl bead. This element adds weight, value and durability to the pearl. Then the pearl is coated with a "batter" of mother-of-pearl which can be dyed to produce luxurious colors and then is once again shaped and polished.

Shell pearls are an excellent choice for many reasons. They're less expensive than natural pearls but because they're partially man-made, they can be perfectly round with a luster equal to natural pearls. The shell pearl will always keep its shine and color and will not be affected by sweat, perfume or detergents. And they're available in a whole new range of colors and shapes which are not found in cultured pearls. In fact, the materials used to make shell pearls are the same materials from which cultured pearls are made.

All terms used interchangeably with Natural Pearls

These are naturally formed when the oyster covers a hole on the inside surface of its shell. We call it a "baby bump."

These look like blister pearls but involve human intervention. A tiny dome shaped irritant is placed against the oyster's shell and a sphere of mother-of-pearl is formed.

These flat, organic shaped pearls are the second pearl an oyster forms after it has a permanent indentation from the first pearl. They're also made after a freshwater oyster expels the injected irritant but continues to form nacre.

This is a circular and flat pearl created by using a disc-shaped irritant.
Pearls and Cake Showroom
355 N. Laflin Suite 603
Chicago, IL 60607
Feather Loft Artist's Building
Open by appointment
Contact Us