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Pearly Whites

Cindy Scarr

When we think jewelry we think precious metals and jewels found buried in the earth. But one jewel is found not under the earth, but under the water and inside a living creature, most often an oyster. It’s a pearl.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

diver getting pearlsA Pearl is Born

As an oyster grows, its shell has to grow too. So an organ called the mantle makes something called nacre (nay-kerr), also known as mother-of-pearl. The nacre lines the inside of the shell and builds it.

A natural pearl is the result of what happens when an oyster tries to protect itself from some type of irritant (something irritating) that gets between the mantle and the shell, which the oyster can’t expel.

That irritant — even the tiniest speck of dirt — really bothers the oyster. (Think about how much even a tiny splinter hurts, or how a little speck of dirt in our eye really hurts!) So the irritated oyster tries to cover up what’s irritating it. How? The mantle covers the irritant with layers of nacre. As long as the irritant is inside the oyster, the oyster continues to put layer upon layer of nacre around it. And this eventually forms a pearl — nothing more than a foreign substance covered with layers of nacre.

 

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