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Nacre (pronounced ‘NAY-ker’ or ‘NAK-ra’), also referred to as ‘mother-of-pearl’, is the iridescent lining found on the inner shell of many molluscs including pearl oysters, several marine snails and some cephalopods such as the nautilus species. As a commodity, nacre has been collected, used, traded and sold across land and sea for millennia.

Many Eastern, Western and Pacific cultures place high value on nacre’s iridescent beauty. It is a highly-prized commodity in many cultures and is used in items to embellish, decorate, signify power, pay tribute or confer protection. 

Its applications include religious objects, ornaments, personal adornment, fashion accessories, musical instruments, utilitarian and domestic implements and architectural features.

This display showcases specimens and objects held in the museum’s collections that illustrate the diverse and imaginative ways that humans have shaped and used this iridescent substance.

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Pearl shell Pearl shell

Event Details

09 May 2021 - 18 April 2022

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