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Mother Of Pearl Defined
Mother of pearl is the iridescent layer on the inside of some mollusk species consisting of aragonite and calcite, a polymorphic calcium carbonate. Mother of pearl is also the main material used in the manufacture of pearl cores.
Mother of Pearl Forms the Inside of the Shell
Famous for its shimmering beauty all over the world, the colorful shell known as mother of pearl is an organic/inorganic material that coats the inside of the mollusk shell. The play of colors floating on the surface of the interior layer also known as luster is an optical phenomenon in which wavelengths of light are scattered and refracted back towards the viewer in a dazzling display.
Mother of Pearl
Until it was replaced with plastic in the mid-20th century, Mother-of-Pearl was also used to manufacture shiny buttons for clothing. This is the case in Broome, Australia, a well-known South Sea pearl producing area. Before South Sea pearls became a staple area, this small town thrived in the mother pearl business of Pinctada maxima.
Mother Of Pearl Is Now Used To Grow Pearls
Mother of pearl is now widely used as a core in pearl cultivation. The shells are cut into squares and then run through a process that rounds the pieces into beads. These beads are implanted into the oyster, which then secretes the nacre on the mother-of-pearl beads to form cultured pearls. See nacre for a fuller description.
Beauty And Destination At Sea
Mother of pearl has two functions: to provide protection from predators, and to provide protection from the elements. Shielding mollusks from predators and parasites is a process called encystation. Nacre is secreted by mollusk and graveyard traps that attack foreign parasites and deitrus, smoothing irritation and sometimes creating the rarest of treasures: pearls.
Nacre provides shelter for soft-bodied mollusks; The strength and resilience of the shell allows the animal to survive environmental stresses and the unrelenting stresses of surviving in its habitat. The shell structure begins with a round, oval-like shape called the umbo. The umbo is gradually surrounded by concentric growth rings of nacre which will thicken and expand outward continuously, to accommodate the animal throughout its lifespan.
The mollusk shell contains three layers: periostacum (conchiolin layer), ostracum (prismatic layer), and hypostracum (last mother of pearl layer).
Protective Outer Shell
Periostracum is the outermost layer of the shell; it is the first layer to form around the mollusk during the immature glochidaeal stage, and is composed entirely of organic conchiolin, a dark brown, black, green or dark blue colored organic substance composed of the protein keratin that can also be found in the human epidermis.
The ostracum, or prismatic layer, is the central layer and consists of small hexagonal calcite crystals measuring one micron in size. In freshwater molluscs the crystals are mainly aragonite, due to the variety of trace elements found in the water. Contrary to its name, the prismatic coating is colorless or beautiful; it provides a degree of stability to the hypostracum, and is brown to brownish yellow in color with a porcelain finish. The crystals are arranged parallel to each other and held together by a thin film of organic matter.
Hypostracum, or mother of pearl layer, is the last layer that displays color and color. Mother of pearl consists almost entirely of calcium carbonate (CaCo3), which contains millions of platelets of aragonite crystals. These crystals measure 0.3-0.5 microns in diameter, and are stacked on top of each other in a brick-like structure. Interspersed with very thin sheets of conchiolin lies? joint thrombosis. Each layer grows intermittently; some layers show straight and even growth, while others are rounded, but none run parallel to the shell surface. The result is similar to a topographic map detailing ridges and valleys when viewed under 40x magnification.
The growth of the mother pearl layer is very slow. In P. margaritifera, the mean level is about 13 aragonite platelets per day; other species excrete nacre at a faster or slower rate depending on environmental conditions.
Aragonite platelets are transparent and mimic the wavelengths of visible light, allowing light rays to be absorbed, scattered and reflected back to the viewer in a variety of colors resulting in the phenomenon of iridescence.
While we now know the science behind the iridescence effect, it doesn’t make the phenomenon any less beautiful or inspire the imaginations of people around the world.