La Paz Pearl Oyster

Part of the Pearls exhibition.

Pinctada mazatlanica

Before Black-lipped Pearl Oysters were first cultured for pearls in French Polynesia in the last century, most of the black pearls seen in Western countries--including many of the larger pearls worn during the European Renaissance--came from La Paz Pearl Oysters in Panama or Baja California. Recent pearl culturing ventures in the Gulf of California are now returning New World black pearls to the market.

La Paz Pearl Oyster shell
La Paz Pearl Oyster shell Pinctada mazatlanicaVeracruz, Cameron, Panama

Members of the family Pteridae, these pearl oysters attach to hard surfaces with threads called a byssus, rather than cementing themselves as true oysters do. They also require more "open water" oceanic conditions than the edible species.