Myth: Pearls are made from a grain of sand

Came across this in a Guardian article about a new exhibit opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

V&A dissolves myths around pearls in major new show
The Guardian

[Marilyn] Monroe and [Elizabeth] Taylor are represented in a show devoted to pearls, opening at the V&A on Saturday.

Neither probably knew the grimmer truth of what they were wearing. "The pearls are formed around the larvae from a tapeworm coming from the excrement of other animals," said the show's co-curator, Hubert Bari. "The people marketing them prefer to say 'it is so fantastic: your necklace was made from a grain of sand'. It is better to speak about a grain of sand than to speak about a piece of shit from a stingray."

The grain of sand myth is so entrenched that the V&A has included a video showing precisely how pearls are formed – how tiny tapeworm larvae that live in the digestive systems of animals such as sharks and stingrays are excreted and then, very rarely, manage to get into water-filtering shellfish. Some get trapped between the shell and the outer epithelial tissue, and it is from this that the pearl emerges and the larvae dissolves.


Posted on Tue Sep 17, 2013


Alex, you aren't taking that story seriously?

Parasites can result in pearl formation but so can almost any insult to the mantle tissue.
Posted by Carl  on  Tue Sep 17, 2013  at  09:07 PM
Carl -- I have to admit I have basically no clue how pearls are formed, but I was quite taken with the thought of pearls forming from little nuggets of poop.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Sep 18, 2013  at  03:56 PM
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