Mabe pearls are also known as blister pearls. They are not truly pearls as they are formed on the inner shell of a bivalve mollusk rather than in its body. Although mabe pearls can be found in nature, they are usually cultured. Black-winged pearl oyster Pteria penguin and the Rainbow-lipped pearl oyster, Pteria sterna are the two most common species used.

A hemispherical bead is carefully implanted against the inner shell and the shellfish then slowly covers this nucleus with nacre over a few years. The half pearl is then removed. The starting bead is removed and the hollow pearl filled with a resin. A piece of mother of pearl shell covers the back. The most popular shape is the hemisphere, but other shapes are also produced. The Eyris Blue Pearl Company's website shows actual pictures of how mabe pearls are created in New Zealand abalone (sea snail) the species where we get Paua shell from. The procedure requires delicate skill as the slightest cut would be fatal to the abalone. The resulting mabe pearls are beautiful aqua blues or irridescent teal greens in colour.

Due to their shape and the need for an enclosed back, these half pearls are best used for earrings and rings rather than necklaces. Although mabe pearls are relatively inexpensive compared to cultured pearls of the same size, they should not be thought of as only fit for low end jewelry. The picture shows an exquisite pair of mabe pearl earrings designed by Verdura, the Sicilian master jeweler to the rich and famous in the 1940's and 1950's.


Mabe Pearls : Half Pearls with Whole Beauty

Abalone Mabe Pearls

Ken Snowman(1990) The Master Jewelers. Thames and Hudson Ltd.