Industry / Pearls

What’s So Great About The Conch Pearl?


Is there any gemstone more recognizable than a pearl? Regardless of type, if you saw a pearl, you’d probably know it was a pearl, right?

Cicada conch pearl earirngs
Earrings in platinum and 18k gold with 62.75 cts. t.w. conch pearls, 5.03 cts. t.w. diamonds, and 4.53 cts. t.w. briolette diamonds, $161,000; Cicada Jewelry

While most pearls are easily recognizable, there are varieties that might easily be confused for something else. One of those varieties is the rare and coveted conch pearl.

Candy Stripe conch pearl ring PV Sarah Ho
Candy ring in 18k rose gold with 17.75 ct. conch pearl and 1.06 cts. t.w. diamonds, price on request; Sarah Ho

OK, let’s back up here for a minute. If you’re beginning to question your knowledge of pearls, don’t—the conch isn’t technically classified as a pearl, though we generally consider it to be one.

Terra Mea conch pearl and turquoise necklace
Necklace in 14k pink gold with conch shell, Kingman turquoise, and vintage coral, $2,705; Terra Mea Fine Jewelry

Because a conch pearl isn’t made of nacre—it’s produced by the queen conch mollusk, not an oyster—it’s missing that lustrous finish we’ve come to recognize in gems that truly carry the label pearl. Instead, what we get from these giant seashells (you know the ones: It’s said that if you put it up to your ear, you can hear the ocean?) is that gorgeously silky, opaque, kissable pink.

Tara Pearls conch earrings
Earrings in platinum with 4.1 cts. t.w. conch pearls and 1.28 cts. t.w. diamonds, $14,500; Tara Pearls

It’s that pink that may throw us off. You might think it’s pink opal or perhaps a cabochon rose quartz because in some instances, they can appear rather similar.

Cicada Jewelry conch ring
Ring in 18k gold with 17.86 cts. t.w. conch pearls and 2.49 cts. t.w. diamonds, $63,493; Cicada Jewelry

But the most coveted conch pearls are pink (the gem tends to range from red to brown, though pink is the most common), with a telltale “flame” structure upon its surface.

Assael conch ring
Ring in platinum with conch pearls and 4.51 cts. t.w. pear-shape diamonds, price on request; Assael

How rare are they? “Only roughly one in 10,000 conch shells produces a conch pearl, and less than 10% are of gem quality, in gorgeous pinks and salmon colors,” says Peggy Grosz, senior vice president of Assael. “Unlike most other pearl-producing mollusks, man cannot cultivate conchs.”

Earrings in 18k recycled rose gold with 7.86 cts. t.w. orange conch pearls, 7.91 cts. t.w. pink conch pearls, 6.97 ct. imperial topaz, 7.55 ct. pink topaz, and 0.62 ct. t.w. diamonds, price on request; Sarah Ho

And that’s why you don’t see conch pearl jewelry in abundance. But the ones you can see? Unforgettable.

Top: Ring in platinum with conch pearl and 3.21 cts. t.w. lavender spinel, price on request; Assael

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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