Mabé pearls, also known as blister pearls ,are half-pearls that are cultivated on the inside of a mollusk's shell. A small nucleus, usually made out of mother of pearl, is attached to the shell of the mollusk and left to accumulate nacre over a period that usually runs about two or three years.
White mabé pearls are the most commonly cultured of all mabé pearl types. The Pteria penguin, or winged oyster is used to bring these pearls to life. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Once the pearls are ready for harvest, they are cut out of the shell and their nucleus is removed, leaving a hollow pearl. The pearl is then filled with a colorless resin to reinforce the pearl's structure and sealed with a mother-of-pearl backing to close everything up.
Mabé pearl processing, image courtesy of perlas.com.mx, the Sea of Cortez pearl farm.
Mabé pearls can be grown in any saltwater or freshwater pearl-bearing mollusk, but the most popular varieties are Pinctada maxima, Pteria sterna and the Pteria penguin oysters.
The Pteria sterna, or rainbow-lipped oyster used to cultivate Sea of Cortez whole pearls and mabé pearls. Photo courtesy of Douglas McLaurin, Sea of Cortez Pearl Farm.
We recently launched a new mabé pearl collection using pearls from the Pteria sterna, or rainbow-lipped oyster exclusively. The Pteria sterna oyster is native to the warm waters of the Gulf of California, and is nick-named the Rainbow-Lip due to the intense rainbow of colors seen on the inside of its shell.
Magnificent Pteria sterna saltwater oyster- notice the mabé or blister pearls that were growing on the outer edge of the shell. The Pteria sterna is also known as the "Rainbow-Lipped Oyster", it's easy to see why! Photo courtesy of Douglas McLaurin, Sea of Cortez Pearl Farm.
The farmer, Douglas McLaurin, nucleates between 2,000 and 4,000 mabé pearls each year making them perhaps the rarest mabé pearls in the world. You can read our exclusive interview with Douglas here to find out more about his thoughts on pearls.
Sea of Cortez mabé pearls are some of the most intensely colorful I've ever seen; only Eyris blue abalone pearls can rival them in color and brilliance.
Sea of Cortez mabé pendants pictured on bottom versus the Eyris blue Abalone mabés on top; the comparison is incredible!
Average sizes are large, measuring 12.0 -14.0 mm across, and anywhere from 14.0-18.0 mm in length. They come in a range of organic, free-form shapes as well as the classic tear-drop and rounded disc shapes.
Sea of Cortez Loose Mabé Pearls come in a variety of shapes, from ovals to tear-drops and rounds.
Our custom-designed pendants were cleverly designed to cradle each mabé pearl securely and to showcase its unique beauty. We decided on white, yellow and rose gold for each pearl based on its colors and shape. Some we kept as classic solitaires, but with others we added a .04ct VS1-GH Quality round brilliant diamond is bezel set atop for an extra touch of sparkle (not that it's needed!).
Our Sea of Cortez mabé pearl pendants feature solitaire settings, and a bezel-set diamond for added sparkle!
Because these pearls are "half-pearls", their prices are much more affordable than a whole, loose pearl would be. For instance, during our Sea of Cortez Mabé Pendant Sale launched last week, no pendant was priced over $350.00! For the size, color and rarity of these pearls, it was an incredible deal and I'm happy to report that our pearls sold out in less than three hours!
But don't worry, we've got a second batch launching next week, so if you missed your chance to own one of these unique beauties be sure to sign up for our email newsletter so you'll be first to receive notice of the sale.
To learn more about these beautiful mabé pearls, feel free to visit our Pearl Education Guide. Or feel free to leave a question in the comments, which I'll do my best to answer.