Mother-of-pearl is the common name for nacre, a material formed by the inner lining of the shells of oysters and similar marine creatures such as abalone. This iridescent nacre coating is a blend of minerals secreted by oysters and other mollusks and deposited inside their shells, coating and protecting them from parasites and foreign objects.
Mother-of-pearl can be cut and polished, carved, etched and dyed different colors. It has been used for many centuries in the decorative arts, particularly for inlay work as seen in the pictures below.
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1. Pictures and description courtesy of Youssef Kadri.