Since ancient times the Mother of Pearl has been used to decorate jewellery, accessories and ornaments. Among the native settlers of the Americas, shells and Pearls were fundamental elements for decorating jewels and ritual objects. Pearls were considered a symbol of fertility and regeneration of life.
Shells and Pearls were used as ornaments by the Mesoamerican people. They were held in high esteem as magical elements because they came from water, the vital liquid in the development of life. They were thought of as symbols of supernatural power, held int he same regard as green gemstones, such as Jade and Turquoise. They were often combined with feathers of exotic birds, in the creation of objects and accessories.
“These objects are a cultural marker, as important as architecture or writing,” says Dr. Lourdes Suárez Diez, director of ethno-history at the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico, and adds that, “a series of utensils were made from shells to be used exclusively by the ruling classes: kings, priests and military. These objects were symbols of status and today from the characteristics of the objects and jewels, the social classes to which they belonged can be precisely determined.”
Shells accompanied by Turquoise were worn on breastplates, bracelets, earmuffs and earrings. They were sewn into the dresses or hung from the edge of the garments. Pearls were considered as valuable as gemstones of the highest quality and were used in ritual attire. They were a symbol of divinity, seen in artistic depictions of the Aztec God, Quetzalcoatl, on his breastplate. From the Indians of North America to the Natives of Patagonia, Pearls were present in the objects of personal and ritual adornment.
Nacre, also known as Mother of Pearl
Pearls, the Organic Gemstones
Shells are an important element in jewellery today, most notably Nacre, also known as Mother of Pearl. The organic material formed inside the shell of mollusks, is a secretion emitted to cover imperfections in their shell and to defend themselves from strange elements. Indeed, the Pearls found in certain shells are a bi-product of this secretion. This material has a very sharp iridescence in some shells, and is considered a precious material, as it has a long history in the world of jewellery. Since ancient times the Mother of Pearl has become a decorative ornament in jewellery and accessories. The most coveted shells for superior Nacre, in terms of iridescence and strong colour tonality are; Abalone, Nautilus and Pintadinas.
Nacre has been used in the making of buttons and accessories through the centuries, although today having Mother of Pearl buttons is pretty unusual. The most delicate have been used in Haute Couture, as each button will never be exactly the same, always having small differences, often the case with authentic natural products.
Another organic gemstones with a high index of iridescence is Ammolite. It is made of the ancient fossil shells of Ammonites! It is known that Ammonites were large mollusks that lived in the oceans before the shifting of the continental shelves. Their fossilised shells are composed of aragonite, which is the same mineral that forms both Nacre and Pearls. It is a precious stone much loved, precisely because of its high iridescence of strong phosphorescent colours. Enjoy the bounty of the sea!