Pearls on the Half-Shell?

Many people mistakenly think that their next plate of oysters on the half-shell might contain a gem. But unlike pearls of gem quality created by pearl oysters, pearls produced by edible oysters have low luster and resemble pebbles. Edible or "true" oysters, the type most commonly eaten, are not as closely related to pearl oysters as their names imply. Both are marine bivalves with similar anatomies and modes of reproduction, but they belong to different taxonomic families.

Cemented group of true oyster shells
Crassostrea virginicaEastern United States

Cemented group of true oyster shells
Crassostrea virginica
Eastern United States


Members of the family Ostreidae, these true oysters cement themselves to hard surfaces and can live in estuaries with low salt content. They are raised and harvested as a desirable food source.