|Among the rarest and most expensive type of pearl in the world, conch pearls are in demand once again thanks to the resurgence in popularity of natural pearls.|
A conch pearl is a calcareous concretion produced by the Queen conch (“conk”) mollusc, which is a large, edible sea snail. Most often pink and oval, the finest examples display a wave-like “flame” structure on their surface and have a creamy, porcelain-like appearance and unique shimmer.
|Harvested by teams of fishermen, a single, elusive conch pearl is found in every 10-15,000 shells, although less than 10% of these are gem quality.|
This rarity, together with its colour, makes the conch pearl extremely desirable. Intense, saturated pink hues and pronounced flame structure (chatoyancy) are what most influence price.
|Conch pearls are a by-product of a declining fishing industry. Caught primarily for its meat, the Queen conch is eaten throughout the Caribbean and the US. Overfishing has forced all but three conch-producing countries to ban fishing to protect decimated populations, which it is predicted will not recover for decades. This means ever fewer conch pearls are coming to market.|
There are few recorded instances of the successful cultivation of conch pearls. Natural pearls, formed without human intervention, come with the “rare” tag that make them infinitely more desirable.