How long does it take an oyster to make a pearl?
We dove deep into the Pearls category in the Yahoo! Directory and searched the oceans blue to discover that pearl-making is a pretty involved process. How long it takes depends upon how big of a pearl you want. Any mollusk with a shell can create a pearl. In fact, the same materials that create the animal’s shell go into the pearl itself. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not always an irritating grain of sand that prods an oyster into making a pearl. More likely, a stray food particle gets stuck under the shell. The mollusk coats the irritant with layers of aragonite and conchiolin, and the composite material is called nacre.
A pearl is built up from thin, thin layers of nacre, the glossy material which the oyster uses to line the inside of his shell. This is a long and slow job, for the material must be extracted from sea water and processed by special cells in the oyster’s body. Sometimes it takes a whole year to add just a few layers to the shell walls and the growing pearl. The pearl forms around a grain of sand, a small worm or some other fragment which has found its way into the oysterfs shell. In a cultured pearl, a core is placed inside the shell and it takes the oyster two or three years to cover it with a thin layer of nacre. After five to seven years, the nacre is thicker, making the pearl bigger and more valuable, A precious natural pearl may take twenty years or more to form inside the oyster.