Conch pearls are a rare and beautiful type of pearl which occur in the Caribbean from the sea snail called the Queen’s Conch, or Stombus gigas. It is the rich and swirling array of colors that defines conch pearls from the rest, and makes it so unique and desirable.
Conch pearls are among the rarest pearls anywhere in the world. In nature, they occur by chance, and as there are only so many conch pearls ever naturally formed, and among them, only 15-20% are suitable for pearl jewelry, it makes them extremely rare.
Now for the tricky part – all attempts at cultivating conch pearls have failed. Why? Because the sea snail that produces the conch pearl is extremely sensitive, and will not generally tolerate traditional pearl production techniques. The failure of the technique also has to do with the spiral shape of the shell. Since it makes the sensitive animal inside very difficult to reach, it’s virtually impossible to reach the pearl-forming portion of the snail without endangering its life.
Conch pearls have a specific weight of 2.85, making it notably heavier than any other known type of pearl. This also makes it an extremely hard and resistant pearl. It comes in an array of elegant and beautiful colors, which are known to play among one another, as opposed to being isolated to just one per pearl. These range from white, to delicate pinks, and to luminous pinks, as well as from creams, to olives, and chocolate browns. The most valued pearls have a wavy structure on their surface which can range from the finest of silks, to very heavily grained.
Unlike other pearls, conch pearls are measured in carats, like traditional gemstones. A normal conch pearl will usually weigh somewhere between 2 and 6 carats, while rare conch pearls have been known to weigh between 8 and 12 carats. Conch pearls of 20 carats and larger do exist, but they are extremely rare, and unique, and are owned by only the most dedicated collectors.
There is an increasing problem for the conch pearl, due to a major, world-wide issue. Environmental pollution is greatly endangering the sea snail which produces conch pearls. Drastic reductions in the number of these organisms has already been witnessed in many parts of the Caribbean. Therefore, a 10-year ban has been placed on the Stombus gigas in and around the coasts of Columbia, and likely soon around more areas as well. This means that the conch pearl will remain extremely precious, and increase in its rarity and exclusivity.
If you do obtain conch pearls, or conch pearl jewelry, keep them with great care. While they can be worn every day, they are extremely rare, and extremely expensive, so if one should go missing, it should be considered impossible to replace. Conch pearls are really to be worn with good judgment.