Cave pearls are small, spherical calcite formations the size of marbles that are formed by the concentric deposition of calcium salts around a nucleus such as a grain of sand. As its name suggests, cave pearls occur only in caves - limestone caves, to be specific. Exposure to moving water polishes the surface of cave pearls, making them glossy, just like real pearls. While cave pearls are relatively common in caves, they are typically present in very low numbers. Gruta de las Canicas - a system of caves in Tabasco, Mexico, is highly unusual in this regard for it contains a tremendous quantity of pearls. It is estimated that the cave contains some 200 million pearls that cover the cave floor to a depth of more than a meter.
The cave is located in the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas, on the outskirts of the city of Teapa, and has long been known among the locals, but was only recently explored by outsiders. Even less has been written about the site. Details about the cave are very sketchy and unverifiable. The few tit-bits that I was able to collect from a couple of Mexican websites are:
- The cave is 529 meters long and 17 meters deep.
- The “gallery” where the cave pearls can be found is located about 100 meters from the cave entrance, and extends far into the passages of the cave.
- The cave pearls occupy an area approximately 290 square meters.
- The spheres measure 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter in average, but some pearls can be as big as 7 cm across, but they are rare.
- Walking over the sea of pearls creates a sound similar to walking over gravel, and the pearls are apparently strong enough to not suffer any damage.
- The mechanism for the formation of this vast quantity of pearls has not been determined.
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