Treasured for their lovely colors and iridescent luster, shells have been used in jewelry for many centuries. Mother of pearl is the iridescent coating on the inside of mollusk shells. This substance is the creator, or mother, of pearls, thus the name mother of pearl. The undulating grain of mother of pearl is the result of seasonal fluctuations in the mollusk's diet.
In China, mother of pearl has been prescribed for thousands of years to treat heart palpitations, dizziness and high blood pressure. In Vietnam, it has been powdered and taken orally to improve vision and remove cataracts. Mystics believe it to stimulate intuition, sensitivity, imagination and adaptability, and help with clarity in decision-making. Mother of pearl symbolizes faith, charity and innocence, and traditionally has been used to strengthen the environment and bring greater purity to the atmosphere.
Among the chief sources of this gemstone are the pearl oyster, found in warm and tropical seas, chiefly in Asia; the freshwater pearl mussel, which lives in many rivers of the United States and Europe; and the abalone of California, Japan and other Pacific regions.