Mabe Pearl Insider's Guide

What Are Mabé Pearls?

Mabé, also known as blister pearls, are half-pearls that have been grown flush against the inside of a pearl-bearing mollusk shell. They can be grown in Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and Freshwater mollusks, however the most popular varieties to use are the Ptera sterna, Ptera penguin and Pinctada maxima  mollusks.

Additionally, recent advances in culturing technology have presented us with the advent of cultured abalone mabé pearls, which are intensely colorful and highly sought after! Below is a collection of lustrous mabé pearls in traditional pearl shapes and sizes. Mabé pearls can be grown in almost any shape, however rounds, ovals and drop-shapes are the most popular.

Culturing Mabé 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, 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 Mabé Pearls

There are 4 main types of mabé pearls commonly found in the jewelry industry today. We'll go over each one briefly, and then in deeper detail:

  • Ptera penguin - white saltwater mabé pearls cultured in East Asia. These are the most common mabé pearls found today.
  • Ptera sterna - black saltwater mabé pearls cultured in Mexico. These are pictured on our page banner up top.
  • Pinctada maxima - White and Golden mabé pearls grown in saltwater South Sea pearl oysters.
  • Haliotsis Iris - Abalone mabé pearls, world-famous for their intense blue, blue-green and green colors. 

Ptera penguin mabé pearls from 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 mabé pearls from 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.

Learn More About Sea of Cortez Pearls

Pinctada maxima mabé pearls from the South Sea pearl oyster

  • 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 0.25-0.30mm.

Learn More About South Sea Pearls

Haliotsis iris mabé pearls from the Abalone mollusk

  • 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.

Learn More About Abalone Pearls

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