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Mother Of Pearl

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Mother of Pearl shells of many molluscous animals display a brilliant pearly and iridescent luster, resulting from the peculiar manner in which the layers of calcareous matter of which they are composed have been successively formed. Such shells, even when small in size, form bright and, especially to the untutored eye, attractive ornaments, and as such are used for necklaces and similar purposes. When the shells are of sufficient size to cut and shape for purposes of utility, they become articles of some commercial importance under the name of Mother-of-Pearl. This term, though applicable to all pearly shells, is in commerce principally applied to the shells of the bi-valve pearl mussel, which is the principal source of the commercial product.

The largest and steadiest consumption of mother-of-pearl is in the button trade, and much is also consumed by cutlers for handles of fruit and dessert knives and forks, pocket-knives, and other forms of cutlery. It is also used in the inlaying of Japanese and Chinese lacquers, European lacquered papier-mache work, trays, toys, and as an ornamental inlay generally. In an innumerable variety of small and fancy articles, mother-of-pearl is I also employed, its use being limited only by the moderate dimensions and thickness of material obtained, and its rather brittle nature.

The carving of pilgrim shells, and the elaboration of crucifixes and ornamental work in mother-of-pearl is a distinctive industry of the monks and other inhabitants of Bethlehem. Among the South Sea Islands the shell is largely fashioned into fishing hooks, a purpose for which its brilliant, conspicuous appearance seems to render it suitable without the addition of any bait or other lure.

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