You just might not be familiar with abalone pearls, although I am sure you would recognize an abalone shell. They are rich with color, gorgeous in both jewelry and mother-of-pearl decorative accessories. Abalone pearl nacre is stunning with a swirl of iridescent color.
Abalone are sea snails. They are also hemapheliacs so they are incredibly difficult to culture for pearl production. Up until a few years ago, the largest natural Abalone pearl was around 400 carats. Now remember, natural pearls are not measured by a size diameter, like cultured pearls, but as a weight. One carat equals 200 milligrams.
Around 2006 a diver off the coast of Mexico found an abalone with a HUGE natural pearl inside. The weight is over 800 carats (twice the weight of the second largest abalone pearl!)
The diver sold the pearl to James Peach who still owns it today. This stunner is estimated to be worth $1.5 million. James named it Le Perle Venetia after his wife.
As you can see, the biggest abalone pearl is not round. This is a characteristic of abalone pearls, they are rarely round. Abalone, unlike many pearl producing mollusks, are not bivalves. They only have one shell. This means the formation of the pearl is different. They typically form in horn like shapes.
The abalone shell alone is highly sought after. When I lived in New Zealand in 2000, I saw so many jewelry pieces featuring abalone shell or, as they call it in New Zealand, pāua.
So the shells themselves are gorgeous. And abalone pearls? Well since pearls are made from the mother of pearl the mollusk uses to create its shell, the pearls are stunning! And not common, too. There is no active abalone pearl farm so the pearls you find are typically natural and they can be worth a sizable sum. So if you find a natural abalone pearl, you have certain found a treasure!