A Pearl in My Oyster...It Really Happened, But How?
It’s true: To my great surprise, I found a pearl in an oyster. Nothing could be more mouthwatering than freshly shucked oysters, delicately arranged on a platter of shaved ice. But my plate at The Mermaid Inn, a popular seafood restaurant and raw bar in New York City, recently offered up more than just oysters on the half shell. Hiding beneath one of my luscious bivalves was a tiny pearl.
The discovery created quite a stir at the restaurant, eliciting well wishes and proclamations of good luck. When the revelry subsided, I wondered how this pearl came to be and if it was truly a rare occurrence.
Alas, almost all shelled mollusks (or bivalves) can produce some kind of pearl-like object. A pearl is created when a miniscule object becomes trapped within the shellfish. The mollusk tries to protect itself by covering up the irritant, using thin layers of nacre, which is the same calcium carbonate lining the inside of its shell. The nacre forms concentric layers around the irritant, creating what we know as a pearl. So, that microscopic irritant can indeed create one of the precious gems beloved around the world, which is precisely what happens in commercial pearl farming.
While it is not common to find a pearl hidden within a raw oyster, it not altogether rare. And it is quite exciting when you discover a natural pearl yourself. Pearls found in restaurant oysters are typically small and have no value, other than the “I Found A Pearl In My Oyster” badge of honor. Go forth and eat oysters…and keep your eyes out for a tiny round surprise!