The queen conch could prove to be a real jewel for Florida Atlantic University.
The plan: to use the marine animal to produce cultured pearls, and potentially make a lot of money with both sales and a patent on its newly developed technique.
The university's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute inPort St. Luciehas already produced 200 pearls during a test run in 2009 and received a $65,000 state grant in 2010 to accelerate the project.
The pearls have a porcelain finish and luster like the interior of the conch shell, and come in a wide variety of colors including white, red, pink, orange, yellow and brown. They are measured in carats like traditional gemstones.