We at Spey simply love little surprises: a bouquet of spring flowers delivered on a whim, or a dollar bill found inside a forgotten coat pocket. A serendipitous encounter always brightens our day. Of course, there’s nothing we love more than pearls, so it begs the question: what are the odds of finding a pearl? Let’s take for granted that you are looking in the right places, and then do some math.
Our foray into probability has to start with the simple truism: it all depends. The odds of finding a pearl depends on where you might be looking and the types of mollusks you are exploring. Any bivalve has the potential to produce a pearl, but some create that most lustrous of gems far more often than others. It helps to understand how a pearl forms within a mollusk. Conch and abalone pearls are exceedingly rare in the wild. Oysters produce more pearls per capita, and freshwater mussels are the relative rainmakers of the mollusk family – but a pearl that occurs naturally in the wild is still a rare thing indeed.
How Pearl Culturing Impacts Your Odds (and the Environment)
You would need to search hundreds or thousands of wild mollusks to find a single pearl, and that doesn’t guarantee you’ll like what you find. Fewer than five percent of pearls are gem quality, with less than one percent worthy to join the Spey collections. Blemishes, dullness, and misshapenness plague the rest. Thankfully, scientists and marine specialists have been able to stimulate the production of a pearl within a mollusk, eliminating the need for luck and creating a far more sustainable, farm-raised product.
Also note that most wild populations of mollusks are protected under national conservation laws – from the seas surrounding Australia (which enacts quotas and maintains permits to control the collection of oysters) to our beloved River Spey in Scotland (where the freshwater mussel is so critically endangered that to disturb it constitutes a criminal offense). Why? Because mollusks like oysters and mussels are bedrock species to an ecosystem, purifying the water by filtering out sediment. Removing them from the environment, whether through collection or pollution or for any other reason, has a knock-on effect that imperils the entire food chain.
So, What Are the Odds of Finding a Pearl?
Roughly speaking, with all the factors stacked against you, the odds of finding a pearl are not in your favor: about 1 in 12,000. What’s the takeaway here? Leave wild mollusks be and let them get on with their business of keeping our rivers and oceans clean. Instead, opt for pearls that are already styled into fabulous jewelry by shopping the Spey collection online. We’ve done the hard work for you – sustainably, of course – and have worked with local communities and governments alike to ensure that the pearling industry has on overwhelmingly positive impact on the environment. Don’t gamble with a species; make the sure bet with Spey.