A mabe (Mah-bee or mah-BAY) pearl is a dome shaped pearl available in a variety of shapes, the most common being round or pear shapes. These pearls are produced very inexpensively, but they provide a very large, attractive look at affordable prices, compared to other pearls of comparable size. They are more fragile than other pearls and should be worn and handled with care.
The Mabe is an assembled pearl produced by placing a hemisphere shaped piece of plastic against the side of the shell interior. The oyster then produces a nacre coating over the plastic. The resulting "pearl" is cut from the shell, and the plastic removed (since the nacre won’t adhere to the plastic). The remaining hollow nacre "blister”"is the filled with epoxy, following which a mother-of-pearl backing is attached. These pearls are not as durable as solid "blister" pearls, so some extra care should be taken when handling or wearing them. Be sure to wrap them in a soft cloth, and separate them from other jewelry, to protect them from getting scratched.
It is especially important when selecting mabe pearls to select pearls with a thick nacre layer. This is usually indicated by pearl's lustrousness; the presence of a soft iridescence and high luster usually indicates a thicker nacre; a chalky quality usually indicates very thin nacre. With mabe pearls, the thinner the nacre the more FRAGILE the pearl; if the nacre is too thin, mabe pearls can crack or peel easily. They are especially popular for earrings and rings, but since they are more fragile than other pearls, they are not recommended for rings.