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Pearl Oyster Culture

The Tahitian Pearl is unique. It is reared in an oyster called Pinctada Margaritifera Cumingui Var.

History

The first gathering and rearing experiments of the Pinctada Margaritifera oyster were done in France, around the year 1900, by Mr Simon Grand, an oyster-farmer from the South-East of France.

Later, several biologists went to this region in order to continue these experiments and make some tests.

It was only in the 1960’s that oyster-farmer really started to breed and graft pearls. For ten years, the Black Pearl market has been constantly developing, and today, it is famous throughout the world. More and more valued by princesses, actresses, businesswomen, pearls represent charm, elegance and rarity.

« Pinctada Margaritifera » oyster

The Pinctada Margaritifera oyster only lives in Polynesian sea beds. It is the most sought-after species, since it gives to the pearl a huge variety of colors : green, purple, blue, pink, grey and peacock (a mix of purple and green).

Breeding and Graft

Breeding and graft are very slow processes, which require a lot of care and considerable patience.

Here are the different steps of the breeding process of a pearl:

  1. Pearl oysters are hung up a few meters under the water surface during one to two years, in order to let them grow up to 5 to 10 cm.
  2. Shells are then pierced and hung up to a nylon wire for 3 to 12 months, in order to reach 9 to 11 cm.
  3. Then, the graft comes, which is a delicate and determining operation. Pearl producers get experts help them for the graft. These specialists are called the grafters.
  4. The graft consists in introducing the nucleus (a little ball of mother-of-pearl perfectly polished) and the transplant that comes from the membrane of the oyster mother into the genital organia (gonad) of another one oyster.
  5. Once grafted, oysters are put into their natural environment. Few weeks later, the grafted membrane provides the pearl bag which isolates the nucleus from oyster’s organia. From this moment, the long cycle of the pearl creation starts. More than 200 layers of mother-of-pearl settle around the nucleus. That enables to obtain these colors of an incredible beauty.
  6. After at least an eighteenth-months period, the graft gives birth to the pearl.
    Note: monthly oysters are taken out of the water and are cleaned out from algae and parasites.
  7. After 18 and 24 months of maintenance and care, the layer of mother-of-pearl is verified (the layer must be at least equal to 0,8 mm as the legislation asks it. The Polynesian Services of Pearl Oyster Culture control rigorously.
Note: It needs more than 4 years to obtain a pearl. Before the harvest, the success of transplantation is between 25 and 30 %, which means that the majority of the grafts will not work. Some of them will give keishis (kind of little pearls, with undefined shape, that develop naturally into the oyster and are much appreciated settled on jewels) and others will be rejected.

Only 5 % of those are classified in the A category.