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Nacre Stone

NACRE STONE’S CHARACTERISTICS

  • Origin of the name: Its etymology comes from the Arabic word “naqqarah”, derived from the word “nacre”
  • Chemical composition: Calcium carbonate and organic compounds, CaCO3.
  • Crystal System: Bivalve Molluscs
  • Hardness: Between 3.5 and 4
  • Deposits: Akoya, Australia, Tahiti, Mabé, Keshi, in freshwater
  • Colours: Silvery-white, Cream, Pale bluish grey, Purplish grey to black, Light pink.

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NACRE STONE: ITS HISTORY, ORIGIN AND COMPOSITION, AND ITS LITHOTHERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES AND VIRTUES

HISTORY OF NACRE STONE

Nacre stone has been used by a great number of peoples since prehistoric times, since the end of the Palaeolithic. Its iridescent reflections aroused fascination among the First Peoples, who attributed it a symbolic link with the land and the sea. Its uses were numerous :

  • Pearly shells were mainly used to make jewellery adornments. The shells were pierced, sometimes cut and threaded.
  • They were used to decorate art or religious objects, using the iridescent reflections of the pearly part of the shell.
  • They were used as a bargaining chip. Examples of this commercial use are numerous in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, North America, Africa and the Caribbean. They could be traded hundreds of miles from their place of origin. They were all the more valuable as they were exchanged by peoples living far from the coasts.
  • Shells were also used as tools because of their resistance and the variety of their shapes. They could be easily carved to give them a precise and useful shape: the smaller ones could be used as spoons or bowls, while the larger ones were used as basins. Their sharp edges were ideal for shaping knives and saws.
  • Shells were also widely used as musical wind instruments by drilling a few holes, especially spiral shells.

In addition to these typical uses, some cultures used pearly shells for more specific purposes :

  • The Chinese used it to make figurines of their gods.
  • The Yaqui Indians of Mexico, according to the American anthropologist Carlos Castaneda, wore necklaces made of nacre called “hopo’orosim”. They had a spiritual function, as protection against evil forces.
  • Precious jewellery and tools made of pearly shells were found in the treasures of the Sumerian royalty of Mesopotamia.
  • The first Christians adopted shells as symbols of resurrection. Later, scallop shell was linked to the Apostle James, the object of pilgrimage to the northwest of Spain, to Santiago de Compostela. In addition, nacre stone, due to its milky and soft colour, was related to maternal love, especially the love of the Virgin Mary. This is why many rosaries used to count prayers are made of this material. Baptismal fonts, the basins used for baptism, are often made from the largest shells. The milky, white and soft aspect of the pearly part of the shell combined with the baptismal water makes it a symbol of purification.
  • Native American tribes of the northeast, especially the Algonquin, used shells to weave “wampum”, precious and sacred ritual objects. They were used to decorate belt ornaments, necklaces, but also as coins or gifts to seal a pact. Tubular shells were used as hair decoration.
  • The Maya made dental implants with nacre.
  • Pearly shells were very present in Hinduism. Conch is one of the eight Ashtamangala emblems of good omen in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. This dextrorotatory white shell is the trumpet of heroes in Hindu epic literature. The Panchajanya conch is one of the attributes of the god Vishnu: it represents the creation of the world and the primeval ocean.
  • In Buddhism, conch represents the voice of Buddha and his teaching.
  • The aborigines of Australia used melomelo or bailer shell, a shell with a large round part, to refloat their canoes.
  • In Caribbean Santeria, the religion originating in Cuba, derived from the Yoruba religion, divination uses shells as a medium.

In a more contemporary environment, nacre became more in demand after Elizabeth I gave it the name “Mother of Pearl” in the 15th century, alluding to the similar process of creating pearls and the pearly coating of shells, but also to maternal symbolism. It was then used to make pendants and precious objects of art.

Currently, it is mainly used in jewellery and watchmaking. It is also used in the making of buttons, art objects and marquetry inlays. In jewellery making, it is often associated with onyx, with which it offers a pleasant contrast, onyx being an intense black. In alternative medicine, particularly in Reiki and aromatherapy, some treatments are carried out by the application of seashells, due to their curative properties. They are also used for divination: each shell carries a specific symbolism and message.

ORIGIN AND COMPOSITION OF NACRE STONE

Etymologically, the word “nacre” comes from the Arabic word “naqqarah”. Organically, it constitutes the smooth lining of iridescent shine of mollusc shells such as oysters, abalones, mussels… It is biosynthesised by the mollusc mantle, an envelope made up of teguments and muscles which houses the other organs. This mantle secretes the shell. It is formed by a regular juxtaposition of 0.5 µm thick layers of aragonite, welded by a 20 nm thick organic glue, a protein called conchiolin. Conchioline represents a minimal part of the pearly coating (4 to 6%) while aragonite crystals account for more than 90%. When an irritating foreign element penetrates the shell, causing irritation, the molluscs also produce nacre all around to protect themselves from it. Layer after layer, this protection becomes a pearl. Mollusc produces it continuously during its lifetime.

Between the layers of aragonite and conchiolin there are traces of water and various ions: it is their particular arrangement that causes the iridescent reflections, creating interference with light radiation. The reflections depend on the angle of illumination and the position of the observer; the movements of the shell or the observer therefore produce the characteristic iridescence. In addition to these fascinating iridescences, the pearlescent coating may have a special colouring, which varies according to the variety of shell. This colouring comes from the carotenoids contained in conchiolin. Manufacturers have tried to reproduce its special appearance.

From the 17th century onwards, fish scale paints were marketed under the name “Essence of the Orient”. More recently, the plastics industry has used leahd phosphates to give a pearly appearance to buttons. These compounds are toxic and therefore banned for cosmetic use. Other chemical compounds have been developed to copy the pearly iridescent reflections. PW14 is the most frequently used pearlescent pigment at present; it is a bismuth oxychloride. The chemical industry created compounds of mica and metal oxides to provide pearlescent pigments of all dominant colours; this process was patented in 1963. Other chemical processes are used: pearlescent pigments can be made by coating silica or aluminium particles with layers of varying refractive indices. This process creates the light variations that are characteristic of the pearlescent appearance. These pigments are used in cosmetics and in the automotive industry for body paint.

The pearlescent coating of shells is a biomineral; it is produced by the transformation of minerals into a rigid mineral compound from a matrix composed of conchiolin. There are about 60 types of biominerals known to researchers, but it has the particularity of having unique mechanical and physicochemical properties that are very different from other biominerals. One of these peculiarities is its astonishing resistance. It is notably quite resistant to acids and heat. It is more resistant than the shell despite its apparent fragility. It repairs itself after being pierced or damaged when the shell is alive. These unique properties are studied in biochemistry and biomimetics. However, researchers do not know how to reproduce it. The quality and structure of nacre vary according to the shellfish species and the stages of their growth. It is proteins, particularly conchiolin, that structure the pearlescent mineral and confer particular qualities to the pearlescent coating of each shellfish species. The soluble part of conchiolin produces aragonite crystal, while the insoluble part determines the density, size and quantity.

Several varieties of pearly shells exist :

  • Pinctada nacre or pearl oysters. The main suppliers are the pearl farms of the South Seas. The shell of a large pinctada can weigh up to 5 kg.
  • The pearly Burgau shell, from the shellfish of the same name. It presents astonishingly bright reflections. It has been widely used to decorate fans.
  • The pearly Paua shell, also called “sea opal” or abalone. It was used by the Maoris to decorate their wooden cult objects, much appreciated for its iridescent blue-green colour schemes. Abalone owes its nickname of “sea opal” to the proximity of its reflections with those of black opal.

LITHOTHERAPEUTIC VIRTUES AND PROPERTIES OF NACRE STONE

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF NACRE STONE

On the psychological level, this stone produces appeasement. It soothes anxieties, anger, tension, mood swings and all excessive emotional states. It acts as a powerful mood regulator for the person who wears it. It releases fears and anxieties that affect daily life. It helps to fight against a negative state of mind. It encourages more measured and thoughtful positions and a calmer and clearer expression of opinions and decisions. Its beneficial side on emotions contributes to a better understanding of oneself and others as well as a capacity to step back from daily life. It is very effective in purifying relational difficulties, especially in love: it promotes communication and more balanced and harmonious relationships. It allows the wearer to be more receptive to the needs of his/her partner. Its soothing side makes it easier to express one’s love feelings and emotions on a daily basis, to express one’s needs and feelings.

On a spiritual and energetic level, it is a powerful stone of intuition and open-mindedness: it stimulates imagination and creativity. It purifies the aura and thus facilitates access to the astral body. It promotes the circulation of energy. By regulating the emotions, it helps to focus the mind and access wisdom and better self-control. It is particularly beneficial to the solar plexus chakra (3rd chakra) and the frontal chakra (6th chakra). Its slow and natural production in an aquatic environment gives it a strong vibratory power and a powerful purifying capacity: the person wearing a pearly object benefits from the energy of the water. It rebalances the energy circulation between body and mind, thus promoting health.

PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF NACRE STONE

Nacre stone’s regenerative qualities are of particular interest to medical researchers. Indeed, it is said to have a capacity for bone regeneration that is highly sought after in reconstructive surgery. In lithotherapy, this biomineral brings multiple benefits to the health of the person who wears it :

  • It would be beneficial to protect and stimulate the digestive system.
  • It is indicated to fight against sore throats or headaches. It stimulates immune function, helps the body to prevent infections and nausea.
  • It is particularly effective in the treatment of dizziness, injuries and eye disorders, improving vision.
  • Just as it has a capacity to fight against anxiety and emotional disturbances, it is highly recommended to relieve muscle tension, spasms, and mental functions. It helps to regulate the negative effect of emotions on physical tensions.
  • It is an excellent stone in case of excess tension, which it helps to regulate.
  • It is indicated in case of calcium deficiency.
  • Its regenerative action is also effective in the healing of wounds. It can strengthen muscle tissue and the heart. It is also known to help treat joint disorders.

NACRE STONE SYMBOLISM

  • The hidden treasure

 

NACRE STONE TRADITIONS

  • Nacre anniversary: 42 years of marriage