These oysters are found in the tropical seas of south-east Asia and the Japanese Islands round Okinawa. Their Latin name pteria penguin means penguin wings and their rainbow colours have a sumptuous metallic sheen ranging from dark pinks to blues.
Mabe pearls have a very specific shape which distinguishes them from other pearls. Attempts have been made to breed round Mabe pearls but, to date; no significant inroads have been made. Hemispherical pearls were bred from the Mabe pearl in the 1950’s but today these pearls are bred from the south-sea pincata maxima instead.
To breed pearls of this shape, a hemispherical piece of plastic is placed directly onto the upper and lower shells of the host oyster from where they are encapsulated by the mother-of-pearl. At harvest time, the pearl caps are loosened and the plastic is removed leaving a concave, thin layer of mother-of-pearl. This is then filled with resin and sealed with another piece of mother-of-pearl. Many varied shapes can be implanted, such as ovals, three-quarter pearls and even hearts.
Half pearls are produced from oysters that are at the end of their life-cycle. Because the nucleus is relatively large the growth period is shorter than for regular pearls. Moreover, the breeding process is much simpler which makes these half-pearls an attractive, more economical alternative to the classic round pearls.