An Introduction to Mother of Pearl
Mother of pearl is a naturally occurring iridescent substance that forms the lining of shells of some fresh and salt water molluscs including mussels and oysters. Also known as nacre (pronounced nay~ker) it comes predominantly from the shell of the pearl oyster, freshwater pearl mussel and the abalone which is a type of gastropod or sea snail.
Mother of pearl is known to have been used at least as far back as 4200 B.C. More recently it was widely used by the Ottoman Turks during the 15th century to make Koran cases, writing desks, chests, shutters for windows and doors and in pulpits and lecterns. It was was also used in the architecture and for the decoration of mosques and palaces.
Pearl buttons were a major business in the early days of Illinois in the USA but it's not known exactly how early the industry began. It was however in progress during the early 1900's and America was exporting billions of tons of mother of pearl buttons all over the world up until World War II. The industry was then pretty much wiped out with the introduction of newly invented plastic.