The most colorful of all pearl-producing mollusks, abalone, are found in rocky, coastal waters around the world. Though fairly plentiful, these rock-hugging snails rarely produce pearls. When they do, the cause is usually an inner shell or intestinal disturbance. Most commonly, the pearl is started when a small bit of shell or a parasite is perceived as a threat by the abalone. The foreign matter becomes incased in nacre and thus creates a natural pearl.
Due to the anatomy of the mollusk, abalone pearls can take on many unusual shapes. Though occasionally near-round or symmetrical, most abalone pearls are baroque. The most common shape is one resembling a horn or shark tooth. Pearls of this nature have been known to reach great size, sometimes measuring over 5” in length. Because abalone are hemophiliac, it is impossible to culture an abalone pearl. Many farmers have developed laborious techniques of culturing abalone mabe pearls; however these should not be confused with true natural and wild-found pearls.
The value of an abalone pearl is assessed by color, luster, shape, heft, and size. The ideal pearl is one with a combination of vibrant colors; a smooth, mirror-like luster; symmetrical shape; and appropriate heft (not hollow). It is estimated that over 100,000 animals need to be harvested to find just 1 possessing these qualities and measuring over 15mm in size. Generally the abalone pearls carried by Kojima Company are found by divers along the coast of California and Mexico.
Back to About the Pearls main page.