Why Is It Called Mother Of Pearl?

Why Is It Called Mother Of Pearl? Pearls and Mother of Pearls

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Many people have wondered why its name is called Mother of Pearl. What exactly does it mean?

The name mother used in Mother of Pearl is thought to come from a nearly obsolete meaning of mother, which means “scrum, drugs, or leftover fifth.” This would be because the Mother of Pearl comes from the leftover shell of the oyster, clam, or mussel. The scientific name for Mother Of Pearl is nacre.

Table of Contents

Mother of Pearl Vase
Mother of Pearl Vase

Mother of Pearl

The word “mother’ in Mother of pearl is believed to come from a nearly obsolete meaning of mother, which at one time meant ‘scrums, dregs, or leftover filth.” The Mother of Pearl uses the part of the previously leftover shell.

In the 1530s, the word mother did not always mean what it means to us today. According to the Etymonline, the word mother once meant:

“a thick substance concreting in liquors; the lees or scum concreted” [Johnson], the 1530s, probably from Middle Dutch modder “filth, dregs.”


When you understand this former meaning of the word “mother,” you can understand why the word “mother” was used for the material Mother of Pearl.

Mother of Pearl Bowl
Mother of Pearl Bowl

The scientific name of the Mother of Pearl is Narce. Narce is an organic and inorganic material that coats the inside of a pearl oyster, fresh pearl mussel, or abalone shell. Narce is considered to be solid and incandescent.

The mother of pearl’s incandescence comes from shell linings covering the inside of the clams, mussels, or oyster shells. All of these shells have a version of the mother of pearl. Only some shells will turn into pearls used for jewelry.

Mother of Pearl is essentially the same material they gave us: pearls used in jewelry. Like pearls, Mother of Pearl is a natural material.

Variety of Pearls for Jewelry.
Variety of Pearls for Jewelry.

The Forming of a Pearl

The natural pearl, often called the Oriental pearl, forms when an irritant forms into a particular species of oysters, mussels, or clams. As a defense against the irritant, the mollusk secretes a fluid to coat the irritant layer upon layer. It is these layers that form the lustrous pearl.

The main difference between a priceless pearl and a mother of pearl is that the mother of pearl shell did not have an irritant, so no pearl formed inside the shell.

The 100 Million Valued 75 Pound Pearl
The 100 Million Valued 75 Pound Pearl

The World’s Most Expensive Pearl

The pearl material can be precious. One of the world’s most valuable and expensive pearls is worth 100 million dollars.

A Filipino fisherman off the coast of Palawan Island discovered a 2-foot-long or 26-inch giant clam. Inside this clam was a giant pearl that weighed about 75 pounds.

The fisherman took the pearl home and, for over ten years, hid it under his bed, keeping it as a good luck charm. One day, his tiny house burned down, but miraculously, the 75-pound pearl survived. Today, this pearl is valued at US$100 million.

A Mother of Pearl Vase
A Mother of Pearl Vase

Mother of Pearl Products

The mother-of-pearl material used for home decor products is not expensive, like a pearl for jewelry the material gives off the same shine and luster. Mother of pearls is essentially the same or very similar natural material as those found in jewelry.

Mother of pearl is a 100% natural product. The mother of pearl can be used in the following ways:

  • Used With Natural Finish – The Mother of Pearl can have a natural pearl finish. This will give the pearl a bit rougher but more natural look.
  • Cut and Polished – Most mother pearls today are cut and polished into various shapes and then put onto an item for a design. When the Mother of Pearl pieces are placed onto an item, it needs to be placed on piece by piece; this is a very labor-intensive process.
  • Dyed – We can also dye the Mother of Pearl in various colors. This helps to give it a new and exciting look. The major colors we can dye mother of pearl are blue, green, red, and yellow.
Close Up Mother of Pearl
Close Up Mother of Pearl

How to Use Mother of Pearl in Home Decor Design

There are also a variety of types of products that the mother of pearl material can be used on:

  • Home Decor Accessories – Perhaps one of the most popular ways to use Mother of Pearl is home decor accessories. This material does very well on boxes, trays, and other accessories.
  • Lamps and Lighting – Another popular way to use a Mother of Pearl is on lamps and lighting. We use Mother Pearl quite a bit as a material for a lamp base.
  • Mirrors and Wall Art – Mother of Pearl is a great mirror or wall art material. Mother of Pearl can be used with the lacquer material to give it a new look.
  • Furniture – Mother of Pearl can also be used on furniture, especially accent furniture.

We would love to talk with you if you want to develop some Mother of Pearl home furniture or home Decor products.

Find out more about how Mondoro can help you create, develop, and manufacture excellent home decor and furniture products – don’t hesitate to contact me, AnitaCheck out my email by clicking here or become a part of our community and join our newsletter by clicking here.

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To learn more, you can read How to Manufacture Vietnamese Lacquerware? An Insider’s Guide to Lacquer by clicking here.

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Anita Hummel
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