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The formation of a pearl begins when a foreign object finds its way into the delicate tissue of the mollusk. Unable to dislodge this irritant, a flap of membrane called the mantle, begins to secrete a substance called nacre to ease the discomfort. The iridescent substance accumulates layer upon layer, creating the pearl. A "cultured" pearl is created when man introduces the foreign object. Cultivators implant an irritant, usually a sphere of mollusk shell, mother of pearl, or a section of mantle tissue from another mollusk. By implanting a particular tissue shape, the cultivator tries to influence the final shape of the pearl. Yet, the mollusk always has the last word on shape and size.
Unlike the marine oysters that produce saltwater pearls, the freshwater mussels are quite large and can host 30 - 50 pearls at a time. The freshwater pearls that form in a single mussel can vary in size, shape, and color, depending on their location within the creature. This explains why there is such variety among these creations of nature!
The transfiguration of matter into a "spiritual" jewel makes the pearl a symbol of rebirth. It's hidden light also makes it a symbol for spiritual wisdom and knowledge. The pearl represents the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13:45-46
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."