Pearls are synonymous with prestige, glamour and luxury, but the story behind the scenes is labor intensive, difficult and time consuming. When you pick up a piece of pearl jewelry, you see the result of years of hard work and great scientific and technological advances. If you understand the process of pearl harvesting, you can understand how difficult it is to make a strand of perfectly shiny pearls.
While the name “pearl oyster” suggests a close relationship with other oyster species, pearl oysters are actually a different species than edible oysters and have important anatomical and behavioral differences. There are few mollusks capable of producing a pearl, and only those mollusks whose shells are lined with nacre (the pearly substance inside the shell) produce the pearls used in the jewelry industry.
All pearls produced commercially today, with the exception of naturally occurring keshi pearls and Bahrain pearls, are cored. All cultured pearls used in the jewelry industry today are produced in pearl farms. Although they are genuine, unaltered pearls formed inside a live oyster, they are produced with little human intervention.
Does It Kill An Oyster To Get The Pearl
Do you dive to find your own pearls? Or are you simply interested in growing them yourself? I was wondering the same thing. So I took the time to research how pearls are created and how you can grow them yourself.
Harvesting a pearl does NOT kill the oyster, and pearl farming is a very “sustainable” practice. Not only does taking a pearl not kill the oyster that produced it, but pearl farmers are extremely careful not to harm their oysters… The older the oysters get; the better pearls they usually produce.
When the shells are ready for harvesting, they are taken out of the water and transported to harvesting centers. The oysters or mollusks are opened, the pearl is removed and the creature is either prepared for a second coring. The oysters that produce the best pearls can be cored again and go through the whole process again.
It is important to note that studies have revealed it may be that less than half of the oysters survive this process… After the pearls are extracted from the oysters, one-third of the oysters are “recycled” and subjected to the farming process again. The others are killed and discarded. For those concerned about the environment, there is another reason to avoid pearls.
How rare is it to find a pearl in an oyster?
Natural pearls are very rare to find. In fact, a pearl is found in only one in 10,000 wild oysters, let alone specimens suitable for jewelry making. Most pearls you see in the world are cultured pearls produced by breeding.
Natural pearls, created without human intervention, are extremely rare to find. Today, pearls are cultured in pearl farms, and it usually takes several years for a pearl to emerge.
What is the culturing process?
Before pearls were cultured, there were only natural or wild pearls. Pearl divers had to dive into the ocean for them, in deep and dangerous conditions. The mortality rate for pearl divers was about 50%, making it one of the most dangerous occupations. The chance of dying on the job was one in two!
Today, almost all pearls on the market are cultured by scientific and technical means. Oysters and mussels are kept in large pearl farms in suitable conditions to ensure pearl production. The culturing process requires a trained technician to insert a pearl core and/or mantle tissue into the mantle of the mollusk. This stimulates the process of pearl formation, which can take up to 2-4 years depending on the type of pearl.
Care of the oysters during their growth phase
During this time, the oysters are cared for, x-rayed and inspected to make sure they have not shed the core. They receive nutrients to keep them healthy and are kept in protected waters. As the oysters grow, they continue to secrete layer upon layer of nacre, which over time forms the pearl.
From time to time, the oysters are inspected for parasites or other health problems that could affect the cultivation process. The oysters are fed, cleaned and the conditions are perfect for the development of shiny pearls.
Do all oysters have pearls?
Every oyster, clam or mussel has the potential to naturally form a pearl, although some species do so more often than others. They all have a shell that forms the material of a pearl. Larger oysters are slightly more likely to contain pearls because they are older and have had more time to form a pearl.
Unfortunately, there are no obvious signs to tell if a pearl is in an oyster, clam, or mussel – you have to open it to tell.
In summary, pearls are beautiful and are often made into jewelry. Prices for pearls vary depending on the quality, color, size and type of pearl, but pearl harvesting can be a very profitable business. Ideally, pearls are harvested from a pearl farm where the pearls are guaranteed through refinement, but they can also be harvested from wild oysters, clams, or clams. Wild pearls are often more valuable because they are larger and higher quality than cultured pearls, which are allowed to grow for a period of time, but they are hard to find.
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