The name coin pearls originated from the process of transplanting a coin-shaped nucleus, instead of the traditional round nucleus, into a mollusk. The result is a flat pearl with high luster.
Cultured pearls are made by deliberately placing a nucleus, which acts as an irritant, into a mollusk. The mollusk secretes a layer of nacre around the nucleus. The process can take from several months to many years. The nacre is the coating that gives the pearl its color and luster.
How Coin Pearls Are Made
The process of making a coin pearl is similar to any other cultured pearl, but a different shape is used. A piece of shell material, usually mother-of-pearl, is implanted into the host mollusk, which secretes the nacre around the shape.
The coin shape is achieved by using a coin or disc shape to insert in the mollusk. After the style became popular, pearl farmers realized they could use many different shapes to create an almost endless variety of pearls. Other popular styles include teardrop; baroque (irregular); rectangle; oval; square; flower; cross-shaped. Coin pearls can be set in many ways, since the pearls can be drilled through the middle or on the side.
When coin pearls were first introduced, they were quite expensive, but as their popularity increased, they became more common and prices went down. As with other pearls, the price varies with the quality, size, shape and thickness of the nacre. If the nacre is thin, the outline of the nucleus will show, making the pearl less valuable.
Where Are They Made?
Coin pearls typically come from Asia. Most of the pearls available today are of Chinese origin. There is, however, a growing American freshwater pearl market in Tennessee.