Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Understanding the Differences

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Understanding the Differences - Mantarraya NYC

As popular materials in the jewelry industry, the terms pearl and mother of pearl are often confused. In this article, we will explore the differences between pearl and mother of pearl, including their appearance, value, and durability. So, whether you're a jewelry enthusiast or simply curious, let's explore the shining world of pearl and mother of pearl.

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Formation

Both pearl and mother of pearl are created from nacre, the iridescent substance made of calcium carbonate secreted by oysters or mollusks. As a result, they’re both known as organic gemstones. The difference, however, is in where the material forms. 

The pearl is formed inside the mollusk. When an irritant such as a piece of sand enters the shell and becomes lodged inside the mollusk's mantle (an organ similar to the skin), the mollusk, in order to protect itself, coats this irritant with layers upon layers of nacre which over three to four years forms a pearl. 

The mother of pearl, on the other hand, is the shiny nacre that develops on the inside of the shell. Traditionally, it’s called the mother of pearl because the nacre-lined shells are the belly in which pearls are produced. It’s the iridescent surface that protects the shellfish from irritants and keeps it comfortable.

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Appearance

Pearls and mother of pearl have distinct appearances. Pearls have a luster and smooth surfaces. The mother of pearl has a unique texture characterized by a layered, mosaic-like pattern, which adds depth and dimension to its appearance. 

Pearls come in various shapes, including round, oval, and teardrop, as well as irregular shapes known as baroque pearls. While classic white pearls are the most well-known, pearls can also come in a range of colors, including black, gray, pink, and even rare hues like blue and green, depending on the type of mollusk and environmental factors. 

Mother of pearl is a flat, iridescent surface that gleams in different colors. This iridescence is caused by the interference and reflection of light on the layers of calcium carbonate that make up the shell. The shimmering, rainbow-like texture changes with light and usually has a white or cream base with pink, blue, and green hues.

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Availability

Pearls are relatively rare and difficult to produce, as they require specific types of mollusks, water quality, and environmental conditions. Although pearl cultivation has improved, oysters or mussels do not necessarily produce pearls, even under ideal conditions. It takes years for a pearl to develop. 

In contrast, the mother of pearl is more abundant and easier to produce. It is found in the shells of various mollusk species, including oysters, abalone, and mussels. Consider that every mollusk that produces nacre will have the mother of pearl in its inner shell lining, whereas very few will naturally produce a pearl. 

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Value

Pearls are considered more valuable than mother of pearl due to their rarity and difficulty in production. The process of creating a pearl involves a specific type of mollusk secreting nacre around an irritant inside its shell, which takes years to develop. This makes pearls more precious and expensive. 

Mother of pearl, as mentioned, is more common making it generally less expensive than pearls. However, the mother of pearl is still highly valued for its iridescent beauty and durability and is often used in the creation of high-end jewelry and luxury goods. 

Ultimately, the value of pearls and the mother of pearl depends on various factors, including the quality, size, and color of the material. Both gemstones can be combined with other materials, such as gold or silver, to produce unique and stunning jewelry pieces.

Pearl vs Mother of Pearl: Durability

Pearls are relatively soft and delicate, making them more affected by scratches, breaks, and other forms of damage. As a result, pearls require careful handling and maintenance to preserve their beauty and value. 

On the other hand, the mother of pearl is more durable and resistant to scratches, chemicals, and temperature changes. This makes it a popular choice for jewelry, as it can withstand regular wear and tear.


In summary, understanding the differences between pearl and mother of pearl is crucial in the jewelry industry. Pearls and mother of pearls have distinct features that set them apart, including their formation, and availability. By knowing these differences, you can make informed choices when selecting materials for your jewelry wardrobe.


Follow Us On Instagram

MANTARRAYA NYC Black Sun Earrings Mantarraya NYC- Curb Chain Bracelets Jasmine Mother of Pearl Earrings - Mantarraya NYC