The British Pearl Association Pearls A-Z Guide begins with A


The best known sources of pearls are from marine molluscs such as conch, Pearl oysters and abalone. Due to the anatomy of the univalve mollusc , abalone pearls can take on many unusual shapes and most abalone pearls are baroque shaped (often resembling a shark tooth) .

Blue green natural pearls are produced from abalone. They are among the rarest on earth. They are not cultured and unusually shaped. They take approximately 8-10 years to form. And hence why they command such high prices and range in opalescent colours of blues, magenta, yellow, mauves, purples, electric greens and orange overtones. Green being the most popular colour found. They can be either solid or hollow.

Where are they found?

They are found on the coasts of New Zealand, other areas in the Pacific, Japan, Korea, Thailand and California. The abalones (haliotidae) occur in many tropical and semi- tropical waters. They attach themselves to rocks with their sucker like shaped foot. They are plentiful but rarely produce pearls. Because abalones are haemophiliac and they move a lot looking for food, it is impossible to culture an abalone pearl. The traditional  method of pearl culturing would cause the animal to bleed to death.

The value of an abalone depends on the lustre, colour, shape, weight and size.

Abalone is harvested also as a delicacy to eat.
The population of abalone is dwindling and since 1997, the California Fish and Game Department banned all commercial fishing of abalone.

Cultured Mabe Abalone Jewellery started round the 1980’s based in New Zealand using the native abalone species, Paua.

Rare Abalone
One of the most rare abalones found was a silvery-white shade found by a diver off the coast of Bodega Bay, California in 2012 . The amazing pearl measures approximately 22 x 20 x 9 cm and is 21.5 carats.

One of a Kind Abalone Brooch

Below is a stunning example of a rare Mexican abalone pearl used in a brooch by Paula Crevoshay. Featuring a 28.89 carat abalone pearl. This one of a kind pearl brooch and formed part of Crevoshay’s “Garden of Light” exhibition at the Carnegie. Isn’t it truly unbelievable! Stunning Abalone Brooch
“Midnight Seduction “from Paula Crevoshay



abalone brooch, natural pearls, pearl,









The Most Famous Scottish Pearl
This is one of the most famous pearls in the world and was discovered in the longest river in Scotland , the River Tay in 1967 by Bill Abernathy, a Scottish pearl fisherman. The extraordinary 44- grain pearl is from the freshwater bivalve,  Unionoidae mussel species known as Margaritifera margaritifera.
It has the most exceptional shape, colour, size, lustre and surface quality making it Scotland’s most famous pearl.

The Abernathy pearl (or affectionately known as “Little Willie”) is pinkish- white with a white hue and pinkish overtone. perfectly round, with a pinkish-White colour . It is blemish free with a very high lustre.

It was on display for nearly 30 years in Cairncross Jewellers in Cairncross. It has now been sold to a private buyer.

The Scottish had searched their abundant rivers for centuries seeking pearls. The industrial revolution, pollution, and over fishing caused a huge decline in the abundance of mussels. Laws passed in 1998, now protect the mussels in Scotland so legally , no more pearls can be harvested.



Clams have two large adductor muscles , one on the right and one on the left.
Mussels also have two, one near the hinge of the shell and one near the margin of the shell.
Oysters only have one large centrally located adductor muscle. A portion of the adductor causes the shell to close when it contracts. And the other portion keeps the valves closed or partially closed.

The adductor muscles most portent role is to keep the valves closed. ( the valves are joined at the hinge area).


mollusc anatomy, adductor muscle, british pearl association












Saltwater cultured pearls