What is the Pearl Oysters ? How many types of oysters ?
A number of bivalve molluscs (other than true oysters and pearl oysters) also have common names that include the word “oyster”, usually because they either taste like or look somewhat like true oysters, or because they yield noticeable pearls. Examples include:
Thorny oysters in the genus Spondylus
Pilgrim oyster, another term for a scallop, in reference to the scallop shell of St. James
Saddle oysters, members of the Anomiidae family also known as jingle shells
Dimydarian oysters, members of the family Dimyidae
Almost all shell-bearing mollusks can secrete pearls, yet most are not very valuable.
Pearl oysters are not closely related to true oysters, being members of a distinct family, the feathered oysters (Pteriidae). Both cultured pearls and natural pearls can be extracted from pearl oysters, though other molluscs, such as the freshwater mussels, also yield pearls of commercial value.
The largest pearl-bearing oyster is the marine Pinctada maxima, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate. Not all individual oysters produce pearls naturally. In fact, in a harvest of two and a half tons of oysters, only three to four oysters produce what commercial buyers consider to be absolute perfect pearls.
In nature, pearl oysters( the oyster with pearl inside them ) produce pearls by covering a minute invasive object with nacre. Over the years, the irritating object is covered with enough layers of nacre to become a pearl. The many different types, colours and shapes of pearls depend on the natural pigment of the nacre, and the shape of the original irritant.
Pearl farmers can culture a pearl by placing a nucleus, usually a piece of polished mussel shell, inside the oyster. In three to seven years, the oyster can produce a perfect pearl. These pearls are not as valuable as natural pearls, but look exactly the same. In fact, since the beginning of the 20th century, when several researchers discovered how to produce artificial pearls, the cultured pearl market has far outgrown the natural pearl market.