The oysters are actually stored in nets along the reef, but the Pearl Factory (named by me) is where the work is done. We actually got to watch the pro's in action. They gently open the oyster, remove the pearl, and insert a "nucleus", which is the same size as the pearl and made out of shells from the Mississippi River. Kind of strange, but it works.
|Oyster that didn't pass the test!|
If an oyster produces an inferior pearl, its life is over and someone is eating it for dinner. The shells are sold to make buttons, jewelry, etc. All of the parts are used up!
Some interesting facts about a pearl farm:
- The process for culturing pearls was created in Japan by Mikimoto
- This pearl farms maintains 100,000 oysters
- There is a 5-year investment before any pearls are harvested
- It is 18 months (always) after the nucleus is inserted into the oyster and the pearl is harvested
- Pearls have 3 grades depending on the shape, luster, and number of defects - A, B, and C
And the long process and investment are worth it. Tahitian black pearls are beautiful (and expensive) and come in all different colors - peacock, copper, eggplant, black, and more. They are named "black pearls" because they come from the black-lipped oysters. You never know what size of pearl or color you are going to find. Always a surprise when you open the oyster.
If you get a chance, check out a Pearl Farm!
PS: We actually splurged and bought two of the copper pearls (C grade of course) that are only grown in Raiatea and Tahaa. They are beautiful!