Nacre (mother-of-pearl) from mollusc shells is a biologically formed lamellar ceramic. The inelastic deformation of this material has been experimentally examined, with a focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms. Slip along the lamellae tablet interface has been ascertained by testing in compression with the boundaries oriented at 45° to the loading axis. The steady-state shear resistance τss has been determined and inelastic strain shown to be as high as 8%. The inelastic deformation was realized by massive interlamellae shearing. Testing in tension parallel to the tablets indicates inelastic strain of about 1%, occurring at a steady-state stress, σss » 110 MPa. The strain was associated with the formation of multiple dilatation bands at the intertablet boundaries accompanied by interlamellae sliding. Nano-asperities on the aragonite tablets and their interposing topology provide the resistance to interfacial sliding and establish the level of the stress needed to attain the inelastic strain. Detailed mechanisms and their significance for the design of robust ceramics are discussed.