When it comes to handcrafted, luxurious fashion and home decor, those made out of mother of pearl are the way to go. From jewelry, bags, furniture, and more, there’s no doubt that products made of this material are highly-valued, worthy additions to your wardrobe and home.
But you may ask, “What is mother of pearl? How is it different from pearls?” and other similar questions. While mother of pearl products and items such as real pearl necklaces and South Sea pearls carry that same elegance and refined beauty, there are key differences. Read our guide below to know more about what mother of pearl is.
Mother of pearl: the basics
Left: Mother of Pearl Jewelry Box 5x7
Right: Blacklip Mother of Pearl Picture Frame 5x7
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mother of pearl, also known as nacre, as “the hard pearly iridescent substance forming the inner layer of a mollusk shell.” A key characteristic of mother of pearl is its iridescence, which produces a multi-colored glow that varies from different angles. While the mother of pearl and pearls are closely related, they are two different things. Mother of pearl is the actual layer coating the shell, while pearls are the gems formed through layers of nacre covering an irritant that enters the mollusk. Nevertheless, they both carry that sophisticated radiance due to the subtle glow they emit on their surfaces.
History behind the craft
Geometric Mother of Pearl Clutch Bag in White
Back then, the Philippines was one of the primary sources of mother of pearl. Raw mother of pearl would be delivered via galleons from the Philippines to Mexico and then to Spain by ships in the 16th century.
Contrary to how we value pearls now, they weren’t as sought-after as mother of pearl was back then. According to the American Museum of Natural History, Japanese shell divers paid no mind to pearls while Polynesians merely treated them as playthings. In contrast, mother of pearl was highly valued, often used by the upper class. Different cultures such as ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India also used mother of pearl for various decorative purposes.
Right: White Mother of Pearl Tray
Mother of pearl in the Philippines
On October 15, 1996, the Pinctada maxima, a species of pearl oysters and source of our Philippine South Sea pearls, was declared our national gem by then President Fidel V. Ramos through Proclamation No. 905, s. 1996. Though pearls are significantly more precious today, mother of pearl remains timeless and retains its charm.
Mother of Pearl Tableware Set
Beauty in versatility
Aside from jewelry, mother of pearl has a variety of uses in our daily lives. Because of its unique iridescence and shine, it has become a popular material to use in home decor such as table sets, coasters, trays and jewelry boxes. Since metal spoons often affect the taste of certain dishes, mother of pearl is also used in fine dining, specifically for caviar spoons in order to retain the delicate flavor of this gourmet favorite.
Get the best handcrafted mother of pearl products at Kultura. Locally sourced from our seas and handmade with care by artisans in Cebu, each one will surely elevate and add elegance to any space in your home.