I have been busy running my mouth about non-nacreous pearls, also know as pearls without the luster that we think of when we think of pearls. I have used some fabulous photos of conch pearls which made me think, “Gosh I should devote a whole post to these beautiful non-nacreous PINK pearls!!”
First thing first, conch pearls come from that fabulous pink shell that you will easily find on the beach through the Caribbean.
Look at that amazing shell! And, as you know, mollusks make pearls from the same material they use to make their shell so this fabulous conch makes the ever so fabulous conch pearl! But, here is the deal, this conch is not a bivalve, is it? A bivalve has two shells that close right up… think of a clam, an oyster, a mussel, etc. And in that sweet little home, it is easy (well, let’s say easier) to make a pearl and to hold onto it. This conch is a sea snail. And like all snails it can retreat into its shell or it can come out to move around. Not a good spot for hiding pearls.
We like to say, as a rule of thumb that one in every thousand bivalve mollusks produce a pearl. Now, this may or may not be a marketable “pearl.” It might be a small pearl, an ugly pearl, a misshapen pearl or whatever but it is some type of pearl and for every thousand bivalve shells you open, you will, on average find one pearl. With conchs, the number is higher. For every 10,000 conch harvested, we will find one pearl. So you are ten times LESS likely to find a conch pearl.
Now, I say harvest, because just like other seafood, conchs are harvested and eaten and, occasionally pearls are found. Because of their unique shape, it is very difficult to find a round conch pearl and, when you do, the price tag is much higher. A gemologist from New York shared that, up to the late seventies, conch pearls were not very expensive in the West Indies. “I remember the time when fishermen would ask 150 French francs for a nice one (live and learn, I should have bought all I could then, I might have been rich today.” And he might have been. Conch pearls are incredible expensive these days.
I found this beautiful conch pearl at a wholesale jewelry market for $70,000.
Of course pricing has to do with a lot of factors including the seller and the value they place on their gems, the size, shape, the presence of a flame structure, etc. I just remember being amazed. When I came across this gem, over 5 years ago, it was the most expensive pearl I had seen that was for sale! And guess what, they wouldn’t let me touch it! 🙂
Now, the only problem with conch pearls and other non-nacreous pearls is that they are not formed the same way nacreous pearls are formed with their layers upon layers of nacreous pearl deposits. So, one friend in the industry has told me to beware when buying conch pearls. They can be easily manipulated, sanded down or otherwise enhanced. So, that is something to consider before dropping $70,000. Of course, I just checked ebay and it looks like they have some small conch pearls from $500 to $1000 a piece. So, there is always that option for those of you who can’t live without these pink pearl beauties!
And now for Heidi Klum rocking some conch pearls at the 2009 Academy Awards..