TYPES OF PEARLS

A Pearl strand, a South Sea Pendant, or Pearl Earrings. Akyoa Pearls, Golden Pearls or a deep rich Tahitian Pearl. These are perhaps the most elegant, sophisticated (yet simple) form of jewellery that can be worn and have an incredibly long and interesting history.

A Pearl is a living gem, and each Pearl is a miracle of nature. A Pearl is the accumulation of a slightly translucent material, called nacre or mother-of-Pearl, similar to the lining found on the inside of nacreous shells. This is what gives a Pearl its unique lustre and iridescence. It takes thousands of very thin layers of this nacre to make a single Pearl.

“Natural” Pearls are, by definition, any type of Pearls formed by the ‘natural’ process, or by an accident, (without human intervention). Natural Pearls do not have an implanted nucleus! Natural Pearls are a product of chance, with a beginning that is an irritant such as a burrowing parasite or plant or sand matter entering the Pearl at random. With no shell sphere as its nucleus, the natural Pearl is rarely round or of uniform size.

Before the depletion of natural Pearl beds, about a century ago, all Pearls that were discovered were “natural Pearls”. Today natural Pearls are very rare and expensive. Because a natural Pearl would require a provenance to prove its origin natural Pearls are often sold at auctions in New York, London and other international venues at investment prices.

Long known as the 'Queen of Gems' natural Pearls were once the “exclusive domain” of the rich and powerful, of royalty! From the time of Cleopatra’s famous Pearls through to Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, Pearls have been a symbol of incredible wealth and status.

Cultured Pearls are formed when humans intentionally introduce an irritant into the oyster. The first known examples of human ‘intervention’ date back centuries when ancient Chinese records describe the science of ‘culturing’ Pearls. However one man in particular has made the process famous. Mr Mikemoto had a dream that “every woman on earth could afford a Pearl”. ln 1921, at the World Exhibition in Paris, cultured Pearls from Japan were presented to an amazed world public for the first time. These Pearls were made famous by a court case that alleged that ‘cultured’ Pearls are not ‘real’. Mr Mikemoto won the case and Hollywood starlets such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor championed the newly famous ‘cultured Pearl’ and today all commercially available pearls are cultured.

To produce a cultured Pearl a technician skillfully inserts foreign matter into a healthy, mature oyster or mussel. To protect itself from this irritant, the oyster produces cells that secrete multiple layers of nacre that eventually coat the foreign matter to become the cultured Pearl. Traditionally, after one to three years beneath the sea, the Pearls are then harvested. The shape and size of the resulting Pearls depends, to a large degree, on the shape and size of their implanted irritant.

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AUSTRALIAN SOUTH SEA PEARLS

AUSTRALIAN SOUTH SEA PEARLS

Known as “the most beautiful Pearls in the world” the “Queen of Pearls” is the glorious Australian South Sea Pearl. Magnificent in their luster and size these truly are the treasures from the deep crystal clear waters of Australia’s North.

South Sea Pearls are saltwater Pearls that grow inside the Pinctada Maxima Oyster. The colours vary substantially from silvery white, cream white or gold. Because these Pearls are one of the largest they are one of the most highly sought out.

They are only available commercially off the coast of Western Australia. South Sea Pearls are generally durable in term that bodily oils will not cause harm, however, for this Pearl to be passed on through generations it is ideal that utmost care is taken.

Long known as the 'Queen of Gems' natural Pearls were once the “exclusive domain” of the rich and powerful, of royalty! From the time of Cleopatra Famous Pearl through to Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, Pearls have been a symbol of incredible wealth and status. In more recent years Hollywood socialites such as Jaqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor have added to the mystique and attraction of this fabulous gem.

In 1969, Richard Burton outbid Prince Alfonso de Bourbon Asturias by spending $37,000 to buy Elizabeth Taylor La Peregrina ,a stunning pear shaped Pearl, for her thirty-seventh birthday. This famous Pearl recently sold for $11.8 million at auction.

More recently Graeme Blaiklock and Australian Pearl Divers were honoured to provide an incredible array of Australian South Sea Pearls to the royal families.

A Stunning brooch provided for HRH Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, a pair of incredible South Sea Pearl Cufflinks for HRH Prince William and an amazing South Sea Pendant set with sapphires in a “Southern Cross” display for HRH Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge.

The fabulous Pinctada maxima is a species of Australian South Sea Pearl oyster, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pteriidae*. These bivalves are the largest Pearl oysters in the world. They have a very strong inner shell layer composed of nacre and for over 1,000 years have been the exclusive domain of royal families throughout history.

Pinctada maxima oysters grow very large, up to 12 in (30 cm) in diameter. The two possible color varieties that this species produces (white and Gold) have different coloration in the outer edge of the interior. This mother of Pearl or nacre is responsible for the color of the Pearls that the oyster can produce. Water temperature, plankton and sediments determine which color variety is more common in a given area.

Referred to as "The Most Sought After Pearls in the World" these are the epitome of romance and allure. There is no piece of Jewellery that is more 'perfect" than a classic "perfect white" Australian South Sea Pearl.

Australian Pearl Divers are world famous for producing Pearls for over 1,000,000 customers in 32 nations over more than 60 years and having provided Jewellery to the Royal family.

Genuine natural cultured Pearl. An organic gem produced as calcareous concretions within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of the species of Pearl oyster or marine bivalve mollusc known as the white-lipped oyster Pinctada maxima in the family Pteriidae, the largest Pearl oyster bivalve in the world. Composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) “nacre” in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. Nacreous and iridescent and guaranteed to be free of plastics, synthetic materials, dyes or artificial colours.

While South Sea Pearls are harvested in winter when the water temperature is at its coldest. Immediately after extraction, the Pearls are washed in salt and lightly polished in tumblers using bamboo chips to maximize its sheen. The Pearls are then sorted and graded prior to sale.

South Sea cultured Pearls are harvested in a subtle range of colors among which silver white, white rose and dark gold are the most desirable and expensive. Other colors, such as cream, yellow, blue, grey and champagne, are more affordable. White South Sea Pearls may be bleached, but are very rarely colour treated.

Only 10-30% of each harvest will be round or near-round, so those Pearls are rare. Baroque and drop-shapes are often used in high-end designer jewelry to showcase their unique shapes and luster.

South Sea Pearls are the most valuable and rarest of all Pearl types. They command higher prices due to their large size, limited culturing area, and extended growth period. The value of each Pearl type is based on availability, demand, and rarity. The retail price for a South Sea Pearl necklace strand can range from $5,000 to $200,000 and sometimes more.

TAHITIAN PEARLS

TAHITIAN PEARLS

Interestingly as the name may suggest the location of growth, Tahitian Pearls are not grown in Tahiti, rather they grow in the French Polynesian region. These amazing Pearls can display a wide array of beautiful colours. The shape of Tahitian Pearls can be either round, almost round, baroque or circle. Black Pearls have a variety of symbolic meaning, coming from many different cultures; the main meanings are wisdom or everlasting love.

Tahiti cultured pearls are found in an enormous spectrum of colors. The rarest and most costly are peacock black, slight bluish or greenish black, and/or a straight dark black. Next in line are the lighter colors, and variations within brown, yellow and brownish red colors. In rare cases silver and white pearls are produced by blacklipped pearl oysters.

Tahiti cultured pearls are cultivated using the local species of the black lipped pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera (1215cm). This variety of mollusc is indigenous to the lagoons and the atolls of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. The oysters love the pristine waters where temperatures range between 24-29 degrees.

The first recorded export from Tahiti was in 1972. Since then the industry has grown dramatically. The main buyers are Japan, Hong Kong and the USA. In an effort to guarantee the quality of Tahiti cultured pearls, The French Polynesian Government has regulated pearl classification by introducing a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8 mm. This regulation is enforced by a mandatory export inspection control.

Tahitian pearls come by their dark color naturally, unlike freshwater and black akoya pearls which have been dyed. Tahitian pearls are bead-nucleated and the nacre is usually very thick, unlike akoya pearls.

Tahitian pearls were once the rarest, most valuable cultured pearls in the world. They are still much more valuable than freshwater and akoya pearls, but the farming enterprises are no longer relegated to small groups of atolls. This has brought market forces into play, and today, Tahitian pearls are now affordable to a much wider demographic. Fifteen years ago, a perfect strand of Tahitian pearls for $100,000 would have been considered a bargain. Today, these strands are available for around $2 - $4000.

Tahiti cultured pearls come in sizes from 8-16mm and sometimes larger. More common sizes are 9-13 mm. The exuberant colors of these pearls range from gold through green to aubergine or purple, to dark hues including jet black. Generally, the darker the pearl, the more valuable it is. True peacock black pearls are quite rare and expensive.

Only a limited quantity of Tahiti cultured pearls develop as a round or a perfect drop. More common shapes are off round, oval, baroque and semi-baroque.

FRESHWATER PEARLS

FRESHWATER PEARLS

Freshwater Pearls are also known as Pure Pearls and grow in freshwater mussels with about 95% of production coming from China. These Pearls are formed through a complicated process in which tissue grafts are implanted into live mussels. They come in a variety of shapes such as droplet, button and oval, the rarest being round. Freshwater Pearls are most commonly about 7mm to 8mm in size.

Freshwater cultured pearls come in a variety of ‘claimed to be’ natural colors that range from lilac to purple, orange, brown, rose, grey, gold, champagne and white. Choice is simply a question of personal taste. Today, however, most Chinese freshwater cultured pearls are colour enhanced by a variety of still secret processes, most of which are not revealed.

Freshwater pearls are cultivated in several species of pearl mussel, including the Japanese freshwater mussel Hyriopsis schlegeli. Freshwater mussels are common throughout the world, but those used for pearl cultivation are mainly found in freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds (in China they are even found in places like the farmers’ irrigation ditches). The mussels are extremely adaptable to local conditions. Their lustre is usually not as high as with other oysters used for pearl cultivation.

The freshwater pearls are best known for their whimsical shapes and wide variety of colors and sizes. The pearl’s character is found in its distinctive surface texture and the warmth of its luster. The nacre of a high-quality freshwater pearl does not have the glossy, metallic finish found in Akoya pearls and they are evaluated on separate quality scales.

These pearls are so affordable due to their availability, not due to their lack of beauty. While other pearls such as Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian yield one pearl per oyster, freshwater pearl mollusks can produce up to fifty pearls per harvest. Freshwater pearls are farmed in controlled man-made lakes while the other pearls are farmed in uncontrolled remote ocean regions.

Although freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced pearls, their unique shapes and wide range of colors combined with their attractive prices and charming character, have made them a favorite among jewelry designers, shoppers and pearl connoisseurs alike.

Sizes now range from 2-10mm, with exceptional pearls reaching 15mm and more. Freshwater pearls have an endless variety of shapes, but the most predominant are oval, egg, button, drop and ‘potato’. Perfectly round are very rare, especially in the larger sizes. By altering the shape of the implanted mantle tissue and its placement, farmers can influence the shape of the pearls and, to a lesser degree, their colour.

KESHI PEARLS

KESHI PEARLS

Keshi Pearls are rather small non-nucleated pearls, composed entirely of nacre. The Pearl is extremely rare and only found in the Sea of Japan and is the closest we can get to natural Pearls. Their irregular shapes make for interesting and beautiful pieces. Keshi Pearls range from size from 9mm to 20mm and in colours grey, blue, green pink and yellow. Keshi Pearls are used in a wide range of jewellery such as necklaces, earrings and rings.

Keshi pearls come in a variety of different colors and shades, and are known for their luster and uncommon orient. Keshi pearls usually come in white, silver-white, grey, cream and gold colors from the Akoya shell, the silver- and yellowlipped pearl oysters, and grey to black colors from the black-lipped pearl oyster.

Keshi pearls vary in size, depending on their source. For example, 2 to 4mm for Akoya Keshi, 4 to 12mm (in rare cases bigger) for South Sea Keshi. Size tolerance does not apply to Keshi, as all pearls are different in size and shape.

Keshi pearls can develop in all shapes from near rounds to drops, ovals, baroques, fancy shapes, and even sticks that can be flat or thick. Keshi almost never come in round shapes.

Keshi (a Japanese word for ‘poppy’) pearls are naturally formed in the soft tissue of most cultured pearl bearing oysters. Usually, they form from the accidental intrusion of tiny organisms such as parasites, eggs, sand, shell fragments, or from mantle tissue that has detached itself from the implanted nucleus. However, these pearls are the by-produce of a culturing procedure, and must be recognized as such.

Keshi pearls are popular as they are made of solid nacre and have a bright luster. Their variable shapes are considered desirable to jewelers who wish to design something unique and innovative.

Keshi were once a bargain, yet beautiful and unique pieces. Today, Keshi pearls are more rare. This is because Tahitian and South Sea pearl farms are now x-raying oysters to determine whether or not the nucleus has been expelled. When a nucleus-free oyster is found they are then re-nucleated before a keshi has time to form. This practice has made keshi pearls much more of a rare find than they once used to be.

There is considerable controversy with respect to the classification of whether Keshi pearls should be described a natural pearls or cultured pearls. It is impossible to determine the difference between Keshi pearls and natural pearls by visual examination, but it can in most cases be established by X-ray and other advanced laboratory techniques. The fact that it is the only pearl resulting from seawater cultivation without a man-made nucleus makes the Keshi pearl special and appreciated by true pearl lovers worldwide.

MABE PEARLS

MABE PEARLS

Mabe Pearls take a dome/hemispherical shape and grow between 8.0mm to 15.0mm and are commonly known as “blister” Pearls. They are formed by placing “disks” inside Pearl oyster shells as opposed to a bead or ‘seed’ to act as the nucleus. They appear in multiple colours such as cream, white, gold, silver and green peacock. They are mainly produced in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Mabe”, “Blister” or “Mother of Pearl” is a stunning way to display large, beautifully shaped Pearls without spending large amounts of money. Because the shape is more sophisticated than a traditional ‘full round’ Pearl they lend themselves to very elegant and contemporary jewellery designs.

Mabe is a term commonly used in the Pearl trade to describe a cultured half-Pearl that is grown on the inside of a shell. A dome-shaped nucleus with a flat back is placed directly onto the inside surface of the shell. The Pearl oyster then deposits layers of nacre over the nucleus, creating a mother-of-Pearl dome. Almost all molluscs can be used for this operation (including the Pinctada Margaritifera and the Abalone species).

Depending on the form of the nucleus the farmer inserts into the oyster, several shapes can be produced, including round, oval, cushion, drop and heart. Usually, three to four nuclei (in exceptional cases, up to six or seven) can be placed into each valve.

Mabe cultured Pearls come in a range of colors similar to that of whole Pearls converted in the same Pearl oyster. Treatment of the Pearl cap of silver- and yellow-lipped Pearl nacre, by bleaching or use of colored cavity fillings, will produce white, pinkish white, silver-white, and in rare occasions, blue Mabes. Mabe Pearls from the black-lipped Pearl oysters will of course come in the full spectrum of black colours, while abalone Mabes will display a range of iridescent bluish to greenish colors.

Mabe cultured Pearls commonly occur in sizes 8 to 20mm. Their size tolerance is 1 mm (e.g. 10-11mm). Mabe cultured Pearls are mostly produced in round, oval, drop and heart shapes.

With the Pinctada Maxima, Mabe cultivation usually occurs in the last phase of a Pearl oyster’s life. The oyster may have produced several Pearls before it is used to cultivate Mabe Pearls. Harvesting takes place after 8- 12 months of cultivation. The Mabe Pearls are cut from the shell, the nucleus is removed and the thin nacreous ‘caps’ (rarely exceeding 1 mm in thickness) are then processed: they are cleaned, bleached, stuffed with an epoxy resin and the base is then covered with a mother-of-Pearl backing.

Mabe Pearls can be between 15 mm to 25mm in size. Beautiful Pearl jewelry can be made from mabe Pearls due to their large size and incredibly consistant skin, colour and shape. As they have a “flat” back and you can see where the mother of Pearl layer has been attached to the host shell (they are usually used in jewelry where only the front of the Pearl is visible). Earrings, brooches, pendants, cufflinks and enhancers all may contain large beautiful mabe Pearls, set in gold or silver to show their beauty without showing the back of the Pearl.

Genuine natural cultured Pearl. An organic gem produced as calcareous concretions within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk or conulariid. Mother-of-Pearl or nacre is the naturally occurring lustrous layer that lines mollusc shell oysters in the family Pteriidae and freshwater mussels in the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae. The "mabe" (irregular) Pearl is grown through the insertion of an implant, under a flap of the mantle and next to the mother-of-Pearl interior of the shell. Composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) mainly aragonite or a mixture of aragonite and conchiolin calcite “nacre” in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers.

Mabe Pearls also are sometimes referred to as “Blister Pearls”. Mabe Pearls are generally used for earrings and pendants. Wearers must realize that if they drop their Mabe Jewelry or bump it against a hard surface it can easily crack or break. A Mabe Pearl with a broken or cracked surface cannot be repaired; it has to be replaced.

DE PERLAS PEARLS

De Perlas Australis are South Sea Pearls produced from the majestic Gigas Clam Species. The Pearls are usually sized between 8mm-14mm and appear black or white. The key difference with a De Perlas South Sea Pearl is that the nucleus is carefully coated and polished to achieve a near perfect shape. The Pearl is a result of a long process of shaping and coating, and intensive quality control inspection.

The modern technology of De Perlas Australis Pearl production can also assure its durability. The De Perlas Pearl will always keep its shine and color, and will not be affected by sweat, perfume or detergents. However, care should be taken with storage and general wear in avoiding bumps. We have an exceptional international warranty and customer service guarantee. There is a 2 year warranty on all workmanship and an “at cost” replacement guarantee for any accidental damage or loss.

De Perlas Australis are South Sea Pearls produced from the majestic Gigas Clam Species.

The giant clam (Tridacna gigas), known as pā’ua in Cook Islands Māori, is a clam that is the largest living bivalve mollusk in existance. One of a number of large clam species native to the shallow coral reefs of the South Pacific oceans, they can weigh more than 200 kilograms (440 lb), measure as much as 120 cm (47 in) across, and have an average lifespan in the wild of over 100 years. Tridacna gigas is a magnificent creature and at the end of its lifespan the gigantic Shell is harvested and this pure pearl material (Calcium Carbonate) is machine cut into perfectly sized and shaped South Sea pearls! This raw material forms the base of the De Perlas Pearl…a sea shell, or a “mother of pearl” nucleus, which is exactly the same nucleus as used in the creation of Australian South Sea Pearls. This nucleus is the same material that is used in the farming and manufacture of expensive South Sea Pearls. This nucleus adds weight, value and durability to the pearl allowing South Sea pearl farmers to produce large pearls in a relatively short period of time. The only difference with a De Perlas South Sea pearl is that the nucleus is carefully coated and polished to achieve a near perfect shape. The pearl is a result of a long process of shaping and coating, and intensive quality control inspection.

The end result is a near perfect pearl effect showing brilliant lustre, shape and colour at a fraction of the price of a harvested South Sea Pearl.

The Four Virtues of Pearls are an international standard which is used to asses value.

White South Sea Pearls are known for their large size and their soft, luxurious luster. They come in a variety of colors, depending on the oyster species and the environment they live in. The ‘white-lipped’ South Sea variety yields mainly colors in white, pink, silver and blue while the ‘yellow­lipped’ variety grows Pearls from cream to yellow including champagne and gold. The natural golden colour is said to be the rarest.

A Pearl can double in price from one millimetre size to the next. For example a 12mm Perfect South Sea Pearl may be $1,000 and a 13mm Pearl with exactly the same characteristics might be $2,000 the increase in one mm in size literally makes that much difference.

There are so many variations within these categories that affect Pearl value however this is a very helpful “guide”

The 5 Virtues of Pearls Lustre

The “surface brilliance” of the Pearl. The quicker the oyster lays the layer of nacre, the better the Pearl because the Pearl will tend to have a “mirror finish". Exceptional lustre has a ‘mirror’ finish on the surface appearance (when viewed in reflected light).

Size

Pearls are a status symbol and the larger Pearls take longer to form and must grown in a much larger host oyster or mussel. This time and size increase increases the rarity and difficulty in forming larger Pearls, and this makes them the most valuable characteristic or attribute.

The bigger the Pearl, the more valuable. From 5mm to 18mm (extremely rare) – Under 10mm relatively inexpensive.

The value of a Pearl can double from one millimetre to the next. As such, size is a very important factor in the valuation and pricing of any Pearl.

Australian South Sea and Tahitian Black Pearls can grow to between 8mm and 18mm in diameter, while Pure Pearls range from 2mm to as high as 14mm, albeit very rarely.

Shape

The round Pearl is considered the perfect gem. A Pearl develops a round shape when it moves freely around the oyster whilst it is growing, but normally they get attached to the shell and become off round or baroque.

The next shapes in value are: Drop, Button and Baroque. However there is strong demand for baroque because of the individual shapes.

  • Round is the most valuable
  • Drop and Button are perfect for pendants
  • Circled are most fashionable
  • Baroque Pearl are exceptional value and every one is unique.
Colour

The Pearl “picks up” the DNA of the host shell and will reflect the colour of the host

  • White-Rose are the rarest – A consistent strand is more valuable than any individual colour.
  • Australian South Sea Pearls come in a variety of whites with silver or rosy tones.
  • The golden colour is the rarest colour you can get in a Pearl and it only occurs naturally in the Australian South Sea Pearl.
  • Tahitian Pearls are naturally black. They can vary from dark black to green-brown peacock and silver colours. The Tahitian Pearl, grown in Tahiti and South Pacific. Australia also recently started to farm the black Pearls normally comes in Grey, black, silvery and Peacock green is the most valuable. Size varies from 8-18mm.
Skin

As an organic gem skin variations are normal. Dimples are one of the only ways to guarantee genuine Pearls. The skin of a Pearl is considered “exceptional”, “fine” or “A grade” when it has no marks. The larger South Sea or Tahitian Pearls tend to be more marked because of their size. However, if you see a couple of marks on them, the Pearl skin is still fine unless it is heavily marked, in which case, their value decreases.

“A” grade No flaws on 90% of the surface. Very good luster.
“B” grade No flaws on at least 70% of the surface. Very good luster.
“C” grade No flaws on at least 40% of the surface. Average luster.
“D” grade Pearl has slight flaws on more than 60% of the surface. Weak luster.

The white South Sea Pearls are cultivated in a type of mollusc called Pinctada Maxima. lt is the biggest of all species and can grow up to 35 cm. It generally produces Pearls from 9 to 18mm. The Pinctada Maxima includes the ‘goldlipped ‘ or ‘yellow-lipped’ shell, found mainly in the Philippines and Indonesia. This variant predominantly produces Pearls of champagne and cream colours. The ‘white lipped’ and ‘silver­lipped’ shell is found mainly in the waters of Australia and the southern regions of Indonesia and mostly grows white Pearls with a silvery shade.

Most Pearls are aggregated at annual auctions. Pearl farmers from all over the South Sea regions combine their harvests to present at auction houses (in a process very similar to rough diamond sales). Here the best prices are achieved but, as the Pearls are combined into ‘lots’ or ‘parcels’ the tracking of the origin of the actual Pearl farm becomes very difficult.

Pearl farming is “mostly” run by “farmer fishermen”. The overwhelming majority of Pearl farms are in isolated pockets of pristine waters in the South Pacific to rivers, lakes and dams as from Malaysia to Mexico. There are also the ‘big brands’ that run the multimillion dollar operations with flashy ships and planes, however Australian Pearl Divers prefers to aggregate pearls from humble farmers who are also family businesses who take immense pride in what they do and have done so for generations.

The Collection of “Spat”

There are a myriad of mussel and oyster species with an infinite variety of shape, colour and variety however they all begin as “spat”. “Spat” are the microscopic living spawn of the oyster and mussel and would naturally float through the ocean or river until they found an resting place from which to grow. Spat is initially collected in the natural “wild” environment to begin the harvesting cycle.

Hatchery

Growing the Oysters in a controlled environment is one of the most challenging parts of the process. Freshwater mussels are far more forgiving than their sensitive cousins the “South Sea” Oyster. Tanks are filled with the microscopic spat which also contain thickly bunched nets. As the nets provide the perfect location to grow the spat collect and attach themselves to the netting strands.

Maturation

Nets are then placed back into the original environment to grow, hung and suspended underwater in racks where they grow and mature until they are ready to receive a nucleus.

Collection

Some use boats to raise up the ropes, sometimes divers using tanks scour the sea beds. The famous Mikimoto pearl divers (all women) hold their breath to collect the matured Oysters

Inserting the Nucleus

This is the process made famous by Mikemoto. At this point an ‘irritant” is inserted into the gonad (sex organ) of the host oyster or mussel. The nucleus for an Australian South Sea Pearl can be a piece of the “giganticus” Clam which is basically the mother of pearl shell which has been rounded into a bead or “seed”. The oyster then produces a protective sac that secretes nacre to cover the nucleus.

During the seeding process, a piece of “mantle tissue” is used. This is a fleshy part of the actual pearl. a Pure Pearl oyster has multiple slivers of living mantle tissue inserted as irritants, which the mussel then covers with nacre to protect itself. At the end of this process the original tissue dissolves, leaving behind entirely ‘Pure Pearls’ – with no internal seed nucleus at all. This process often results in a harvest of up to 20+ Pure Pearls per shell within a 2 year timeframe.

Maturation

Then the host is left to mature. This process takes anywhere from 6 months for a 5mm Pure Pearl or a Tahitian Pearl with only a very thin outer layer of nacre, up to 2 years for a large Australian South Sea Pearl. The Pinctada Maxima can live up to 7 years and each time it is harvested a large bead can be placed inside the host to kick off the nacreation process.

Development

The wide variety of shapes occurs naturally as the pearl is hidden away developing. For example a pear shaped pearl is often the result of a circular bead (irritant/seed) that actually attached itself to the shell at some point in the growth process. The ‘perfect round’ pearls are those that can move freely within the gonad allowing them nacre layer growth with perfect proportion.

A “Circle” (with the layered lines around it) is where a pearl is hindered or affected by a blockage as it turns within the host. These blockages force the pearl layers to bend and accommodate (work around) the blockage (thus forming circles). Bean, Seed, Rice, Button, Biwa are all variations of these internal anomalies that affect the final shape.

Harvest

Harvesting is the most incredible experience. It is literally like opening a ‘treasure chest’ when you open a mature oyster. Despite all of the hard work you still do not ever know what you will get until the growth and maturation cycle is complete. It is a wonderful, incredible experience to open an oyster or mussel and witness the majesty of the treasures that have formed inside.

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