A bill is working its way through the Louisiana legislature to change the state’s official gemstone from agate to a newly discovered gem material derived from Louisiana oyster shells, called LaPearlite.
State representative Scott Simon of Abita Springs, La., says the new gemstone would bring favorable attention to Louisiana’s oyster industry that is struggling to rebound after the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
LaPearlite was discovered by Louisiana jeweler and gemologist Anne Dale who saw how the unique facets and beauty of the inside of oyster shells glistened in sunlight.
Working with her husband, Michael, a skilled jewelry craftsman, they cut and polished and discovered a new technique for making cabochon-cut stones from oyster shells. In other words, they discovered a new gemstone material derived from the organic shell of the Crassostrea virginica (American Oyster), the most important consumer mollusk in the United States. The species is predominantly found in the waters of coastal Louisiana.
While a few skeptics have criticized LaPearlite as being too commercial, Anne Dale points out that she is sharing the expertise they have learned with leading gemology associations, and the raw materials are abundant along coastal Louisiana.
At her jewelry design shop in Mandeville, La. — near New Orleans — Dale says LaPearlite is “the most beautiful pearlescent gemstone I’ve ever seen,” and its textured quality reflects the uniqueness and diversity of the Gulf coast.
A vote in the Louisiana House on the new gemstone is expected in June.