What Is The Mother Of Pearl Shell Used In Home Decor Products?

Candlesticks out of Abalone Shell

Today many home decor and home furnishing products are produced using the natural material of mother of pearl. The production of the mother of pearl products has a long and rich history in many places, including in Vietnam.

Mother of pearl, which is also known by the scientific name of nacre, is a pearl layer on the inner layer of the oyster shell. This pearl layer of the oyster is taken off the outer oyster shell. Then the leftover inner pearl shell is cut into various small shapes and sizes to be then glued onto various home decors products such as mirrors, boxes, trays, and lamp bases.

Here is a video about how the Mother of Pearl pieces is placed onto a product. You can see how every single piece must be placed by hand.

When a person purchases a mother of pearl box or tray or another home furnishing or decor item, it is truly a work of art. It can be said that the mother of pearl material is a gift from the ocean or river beds for us to use to decorate our homes.

What Is The Mother of Pearl Shell?

The mother of pearl shell is a beautiful natural material used for various products. What t is also amazing about this material is its natural properties to make it beautiful and durable.

The mother of pearl shell can best be described as the inner shell of the oyster. Some people call it the composite of nacre on the inner oyster shell. But whatever the scientific name, the inner oyster shells give a beautiful inner lining to the oyster shell. What is interesting is that despite the fact that the mother of pearl has been used for many centuries as a decorative element, scientists today do not understand how this beautiful yet durable inner pearl layer is formed inside the shell of an oyster.

They know that this inner shell that is formed and commonly known as the mother of pearl is hard and durable yet with natural beauty. And that for many years this pearl has been a special form of manufacturing decorative objects.

Pink tone mother of pearl
Mother of pearl that has a pink tone to it.

What Is Vietnam’s History Of The Mother of Pearl Production?

The mother of pearl items is produced in many parts of Asia. Still, the artisans considered experts in this kind of production are in Vietnam, especially in many handicraft villages in North Vietnam. We produce all our mother of pearl production in the villages in North Vietnam.

Vietnam has been producing the mother of pearl products for thousands of years. Traditional Vietnamese furniture uses the mother of pearl inlay in their furniture pieces. Many other traditional objects have also used the mother of pearl. Over the years, the mother of pearl production has become one of Vietnam’s top handicrafts manufacturing.

White and pink mother of pearl
White and pink mother of pearl mixed together.

Where Does The Mother of Pearl Shells Come From?

The shell of the mother of pearl comes from both the ocean and the river. In Vietnam, this would be harvested from the South China Sea and the river beads around Vietnam.

The mother of pearl used in our products is produced in oysters, similar to that pearls are formed in an oyster. Natural pearls are so much more expensive than the mother of pearl shell because all oysters, whether in the river or ocean, will have some nacre coat or the mother of pearl on the inner lining of the shell but not every oyster will form a natural pearl.

The forming of a pearl in the shell is essentially a reaction that the oyster has to something being in the shell, like a speck of sand or something else. That is why in many places in the world that are harvesting pearls, they may put something in the shell to cause this irritation so that the pearl will be formed.

How Are The Small Shells Cut?

Before the mother of pearl can be cut into the required size or shape, the nacre layer, or the layer that we know as the mother of the pearl layer, must be taken off the back of the shell. This is usually done through an acid and sanding combination.

Once the layers have been separated, the pieces can be cut and polished into each shape used in the mother of pearl production.

Though some craftsmen may cut the mother of pearl pieces by hand, today, most of this production is done by precision machines. I have seen the mother of pearl suppliers come with their bags full of the mother of pearl, all polished and ready to be put on an object. Each large bag would hold a different shape of the mother of pearl.

So deciding on a new mother of pearl shape for a product means the mother of pearl material supplier needs to set up his machines to cut the new shape for us. If and when they can cut a new shape will depend on the machines they have, and if the shape we require can be cut into mother of pearl.

White mother  of pearl
A white color mother of pearl with a golden look to it.

Is Every Piece Of Mother of Pearl Really Put On By Hand?

The production of the mother of pearl products is extremely labor-intensive. Every single piece of the mother of pearl must be glued on by hand.

It needs to be glued on by hand, but it must be glued on correctly. For example, every piece must line up and be highly straight and in the correct position if required. When you look at a mother of pearl item and see all the small pieces, you need to realize that every single small piece of the mother of pearl has required hand labor.

What Are The Colors Of Mother of Pearl?

The mother of pearl shells will naturally come in a variety of colors. Here are the primary colors of the mother of pearl shells:

  1. White – The white shell is one of the more common shells. Some of the white can almost have a golden tone to them.
  2. Pink – This is similar to a pink pearl, and the color of these shells is predominately pink.
  3. Abalone – Abalone color is the more difficult to find, so it can be the most expensive for the pearl mother, but it gives a lovely color combination.
  4. Dyed – Like we have dyed some horns, we can also dye the mother of pearl to some of the primary colors such as blue, red, orange, or green.
Abalone shell
Abalone shell.

What Are The Best Ways To Use The Mother of Pearl On Products?

When looking to design or place the mother of pearl on a product, there are a few rules that should be remembered:

  • Mother of Pearl Is A Natural Material – Mother of pearl is a natural material. Because it is a natural material, there will be variations in the product itself. This means that not every white piece will be 100% white, or every pink piece will be the same color pink. We try to match up the colors as much as possible for our products, but the mother of pearl is still a natural material.
  • Larger Mother of Pearl Pieces Do Best On Flat Surfaces. – The more significant the mother of pearl piece, the better it is to secure the piece on a flat surface. The reason is that the mother of the pearl piece is relatively flat. If the surface is round, you can still use the mother of pearl material, but instead of the large pieces of mother of pearl, the pieces should be smaller.
  • For A Higher-end Look In Mother of Pearl, Cover In Acrylic – One of the great things about mother of pearl products is that they are highly durable. The mother of pearl has properties that make it highly durable and withstand a lot of different things, even heat. We cover a lot of our mother of pearl in acrylic. This gives it a very lovely high-end look and a very smooth-looking finish.

    This is also more expensive than just the regular mother of pearl as it has acrylic on it, but it is also a very nice clean and smooth finish. But for any acrylic topcoat, the surface needs to be flat like a box, a tray, or a square lamp base.
White mother of pearl
White mother of pearl with some lacquer between the mother of pearl

The mother of pearl is a very versatile yet natural product. It has some wonderful natural properties that make it very durable, but it is also beautiful.

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Related Questions

What is the difference between a pearl and a mother of pearl?

A pearl and the mother of pearl are formed by the oyster and on the oyster shell. The main difference is that the pearl is formed because some foreign object as a speck of sand, gets into the oyster and this irritation of the sand speck causes the oyster to form a round case around the foreign object we call a natural pearl. This pearl will rise to form the shell of the oyster. The mother of pearl material is on the inner shell of the oyster itself.

How can you tell if the mother of pearl material is real?

Once it has been placed on an object, it can be hard to know f the material is accurate or plastic. But the birth mother of pearl is not that easy to copy into plastic due to the iridescent properties of the pearl itself. But the easiest way to tell if the mother of pearl is real is to look at the material itself. Each piece should not be perfect in that there will be some variations in color and texture. A natural mother of pearl will have some variation because the material is natural.

Are Abalones shells the same as the mother of pearl shells?

We classify Abalone as part of the mother of pearl shells as the manufacturing of Abalone shells in home decor products is the same as the mother of pearl shells production. The shell would be cut, glued, and treated the same as the mother of pearl shells. The main difference is that this is a different type of species, so the shells they produce have a slightly different look. The Abalone shell does not often produce a pearl inside its shell.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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