MABE PEARLS: WHAT ARE MABE BLISTER PEARLS?
CULTURING MABE PEARLS
To culture a mabé pearl, the farmer needs to insert a plastic nucleus inside the mollusk and cement, or glue, it to the inside of the shell. After about 2-3 years of growth time, the oysters are harvested, and the blister pearls are cut out of the shells. Their nucleus is removed and the inside of the mabé pearl is lacquered and then filled with a resin and then sealed with a mother of pearl backing. You can easily find the area where they sealed the mabé pearl shut, but most jewelry will hide the seam so it will not be visible to the wearer.
TYPES OF MABE PEARLS
Ptera Penguin – The Winged Oyster
- Represents about 75% of all mabé pearl production today.
- Japanese name is Mabé gai, which is where the term “Mabé” originated.
- Cultivated in Ryukyu Islands of Japan, but also Indonesia, Australia and the Philippine Islands
- Called the ‘winged oyster’ because of the elongated wing or fin extending from the lip.
- Mabé pearls are Silvery-Grey with overtones of pink, green, violet and blue iridescence.
Ptera sterna – The Rainbow Lip Oyster
- Rare with limited pearl production.
- Named the rainbow lipped oyster because of its intense iridescence.
- Cultivated in Gulf of California, Baja. Also known as “Sea of Cortez” pearls.
- Mabé pearls are light to medium Grey colors with intense flashes of pink, green, violet and blue iridescence.
- Cultured for both whole pearls and mabé pearls for jewelry.
- Grown in Golden-lipped and Silver-lipped saltwater oysters.
- Cultivated off the coast of Northern Australia and the Philippine Islands.
- Produces large mabé pearls of 10.0mm and up.
- Mabé pearl colors are primarily Silvery-White and Golden, depending on the oyster variety.
- Mabé production occurs at the end of the oyster’s productive lifespan, after multiple whole-pearl harvests have occurred.
- Growth times may vary from 10-12 months on average, and produce an average of 8-10 blister pearls each with nacre thickness of 0.25-0.3mm.
Haliotis Iris - The Abalone Mabe Pearl
- Cultured in New Zealand.
- Produces Round, Drop and Oval-shaped mabé pearls.
- Mabé pearls are typically a brilliant Blue with very intense flashes of pink, green and gold iridescence.
- Growth times average around 18 months, and the resulting mabé pearls measure about 9-13mm in size, with some blister pearls attaining sizes over 20mm.