How Do Oysters Make Pearls?

How Do Oysters Make Pearls?

(intro music) Most of the shiny, bling-y things that we use for jewelry come from deep in the ground,
mined from the earth’s crust and polished into some of the
world’s most expensive rocks. But not your grandmother’s pearls. As you probably know, those shiny things grew inside
the highly calcified bivalve that we know as the oyster. So how did this happen? And why? Whether cultured by humans,
or naturally formed in the wild, Pearl formation is the result of a simple irritant. Many species of bivalves, including mussels and clams,
are capable of producing pearls when irritated, but only a few can form the shiny coating
that makes them so attractive to humans. And oysters do it better than anyone else. In the wild, the irritant is just a small particle that
makes its way between the oyster’s soft tissue and its hard outer shell. You often hear about pearls starting with a grain of sand, but more often, it’s just a random bit of gunk, like a chunk of food that ended up in the wrong place. But, no matter what it is, this foreign object
can aggravate the oyster’s soft tissues, much as a splinter in your skin, or dust in your eye. So the oyster deals with this irritant first by
surrounding it with a thin layer of protective cells, forming what’s called a pearl sac. These cells then secrete a combination of proteins that form a kind of molecular glue
around the offending bit of grit. The sac then starts releasing layer
after layer of material called nacre. Also known as mother of pearl, nacre is
mostly composed of a crystallized form of calcium carbonate called aragonite. Chemically speaking, it’s the same
compound as the oyster’s shell, but that kind of calcium carbonate, called calcite,
is more durable and arguably less lovely. Inside the pearl sac, the aragonite bonds
with the base layer of protein glue, and then the layers start to stack up. These layers of nacre will give the pearl its iridescence. But despite their smooth, glossy appearance,
they actually have a slightly jagged texture. Scientists think this allows the pearl to be rotated
easily by the flowing water, which in turn allows the coating to be distributed evenly. And since the irritant itself was probably irregular in
shape and shifted around while it was being coated, most pearls aren’t perfectly round. The ones that are have usually
been cultured by humans, and those are made by implanting oysters
with bits of tissue from other oysters, and sometimes, spherical beads, to
stimulate the formation of a pearl sac. Often in the oyster’s gonad, where the oyster
can’t dislodge whatever has been put there. That sounds pretty irritating. Thanks for asking, especially to our Subbable
subscribers who keep these answers coming. If you have a quick question, let us know on
Facebook or Twitter or in the comments below, and don’t forget to go to and subscribe. Subtitles by Skylar Coland via Amara

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100 thoughts on “How Do Oysters Make Pearls?

  1. Most perfectly round pearls you might wear go through quiet the process before it is ready for the consumer. Im a jeweler part time while working on my degree. Some necklaces they can go through 10 000 pearls alone to make 1 perfect necklace.

  2. It is stated in the Quran chapter 55 verse 25 to 26 that out of the sea comes pearls, and that whenever it rains the oysters opens its mouth and if the rain drop goes inside of the oyster it forms a pearl, and in this is one of the signs of Allah. Revealed over 1400 years ago. Its funny how people have their own theories.

  3. Interesting! Dude you should dye your right eye brow blonde and half of your chin strip that would make your hair all uniform to your head hair.. lol just a thought….

  4. O. So pearls are made from snot. Special snot. No surprise I guess, women also wear perfumes made from private parts of unusual animals. Who knows what else is true.

  5. So cultivated pearls are just our oyster version of putting Friday by Rebecca Black on repeat over your home cinema speakers which you've pointed towards the neighbour you really hate, while you are on vacation in the Maldives?

  6. Into the most expensive rocks, because of a monopoly controlling the market. Truly actually worthless.

  7. i was like going to eat a oyster then i quickly dropped it cuz i thought i would get poisoned

  8. So does that mean, the pollution in the ocean rn gives us a good chance of getting more pearls lol.

  9. this video, like many others lack proof! without proof the video shows nothing more than some guy expressing his opinion – what's that worth? not much in my book! And the format of this video is so predictable! Kinda boring after awhile!

  10. By having an itch it can't scartch so it snots all over it. We, being strange as always, then pay crap loads for it and wear it with pride. An oyster boggie, literally lol. Oyster boggies and whale vomit/crap for perfume etc, we really are Weird.

  11. golds diamond and now pearls….

    why human so "opses" this kind of thing…

    u can get gold diamonds by digging the mountain but cause earthquake

    now oyster issue… people use for medicine or pearls to making luxurious equipment accessories for woman….

    this is over sins for all rich people specially woman like pearls….

    oyster is our saviour but force them make pearls and their meat turn into food for human….

    is speechless……

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