The modern day founder of the Cultured Pearl, Kokichi Mikimoto developed a process that gave nature a helping hand in developing beautiful pearls. The process includes placing some kind of irritant into the tissue of an oyster/mollusk.
Now that culturing pearls is possible, a massive industry exists whereby the pearl farmer has some control over the finished product. Due the increases in the number of pearls harvested, pearls are now available to most of the population. Quality pearls can be bought at affordable prices, and the pearl farmers can now somewhat control the quality and shape of their pearls.
The natural pearl industry has been surpassed by the cultured pearls, which has grown tremendously over the last century. Natural pearls are now usually collectors items of pearl jewelry sold in estate sales and passed on from generation to generation.