Mother of pearl
Although not many know this, mother of pearl can be virtually any colour. It's often light in tone, with a pearly lustre and an iridescent effect.
After the mother of pearl is cut from the shell of the oyster, it's sometimes bleached to produce a uniform white colour or dyed a range of attractive colours. A light polishing is applied to accentuate the pearlescent effect. Mother of pearl is often cut into fancy shapes for jewellery use. Traditionally, the shaping is done by hand, but it can also be achieved using modern laser cutting technology (CNC). In ancient times, mother of pearl was also used for mosaics, created with tiny pieces of the luminous gem.
Mother of pearl has a hardness of 3.5-4.0 on the Mohs scale. With fair toughness, it's reasonably durable, but it's particularly susceptible to damage from acids, solvents and ultrasonic cleaning.
How to care for it
Rough surfaces may cause scratching or chipping. Jewellery should be stored separately in a protective box or pouch. Direct sunlight and drier climates may dry out mother of pearl and create cracks. Wearing mother of pearl is one of the best ways of caring for it, as contact with natural skin oils help maintain the lustre of the gem. Clean using a soft cloth dampened in lukewarm, soapy water and wipe the surface gently.
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