Price of cultured pearls & short history of pearl culture
Pearls were the first gems discovered by man thousands of years ago. Since that time, people of many cultures have recognized the beauty and value of pearls. Pearls are the only organic gems and require no processing to reveal their natural beauty.
At first, people relied on the chance finding of natural pearls in a variety of species of marine bivalves and freshwater mussels. Natural pearls are rare as perhaps maybe 1 in 2,000 pearl oysters contain a natural pearl.
Natural pearls are formed when the pearl oyster reacts to an irritant by coating it with nacre, the shiny iridescent material found on the inner surface of the shell. Natural pearls are usually small, of various colors and irregular in shape. The high value of natural pearls led to the creation of pearl fisheries in nearly every part of the world where pearl producing mollusks were found. Most of these pearl fisheries were short-lived because the fishers soon over-exploited the natural stocks. ( source : price of cultured pearls )
A short history of pearl culture
Prompted by the high value and scarcity of natural pearls, Japanese researchers developed methods that brought pearl production under the control of humans in the early twentieth century. These “cultured pearls” are generally larger and of a more consistent size and color than natural pearls. Producing cultured pearls depends on a surgical procedure called grafting, which entails surgically implanting an artificial nucleus (shell bead) into the tissue of a pearl oyster. The oyster then secretes nacre around the nucleus. After several years of caring for the oysters, the cultured pearls are harvested.
Several species of pearl oysters are cultivated for pearl production. This manual focuses on the Black-Lip pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera). Black-Lip pearl oysters are the most common species of pearl oyster found in the South Pacific islands (Figure 1). The Black-Lip pearl oyster is distinguished from other species by the dark, iridescent nacre found on the inner shell. Pearls produced by Black-Lip pearl oysters are known as “black pearls” or “Tahitian black pearls” (Figure 2). ( source : price of cultured pearls )
Black pearls are large, usually over 7 mm (0.28 in) in diameter and may be as large as 22 mm (0.8 in). Note: Pearls are always measured in millimeters within the industry. The nacre and pearls of Black-Lip pearl oysters are generally black or gray with shades of blue, green, silver and pink. Most black pearls are produced in the sheltered waters of the atolls of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, although Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Western Pacific Islands have growing black pearl industries.
Benefits of pearl culture
Pearl farming is an attractive business venture because of the high value of the final product. Although black pearls vary greatly in value depending on the size and quality, large, round pearls of high quality can sell for very high prices. For example, farm prices (2000) showed an 8-mm (0.3 in) black pearl rated “good” sells for around $40 while a 12 mm (0.48 in) pearl of the same quality sells for up to $120. In recent years, pearl prices have fallen signficantly, especially for smaller, lower-quality pearls. The price of large and high quality pearls, however, have not declined as rapidly. One of the principal advantages of pearl production is that the final product is lightweight and nonperishable.
Pearl oysters are most commonly found in remote tropical atolls where commercial exploitation of marine resources such as fish is difficult due to the lack of refrigeration and shipping facilities. Pearls require no refrigeration and very simple processing. Pearl farming is also a compatible occupation for people who like working on the water and have boating, diving and fishing skills. With the exception of the grafting process, pearl farming is a relatively simple form of aquaculture because pearl oysters do not require artificial feeds, complicated farm structures or constant attention. ( source : price of cultured pearls )
If properly managed, pearl farming will not harm the environment and can increase the wild pearl
oyster population over a period of years. For these reasons, pearl culture may be the best opportunity for business development in many isolated island areas.
Although pearls are a high value product, many pearl farmers fail in their attempts to make a living by pearl farming. When considering pearl farming as an investment opportunity or as a small business, there are three key points to remember:
- Successful pearl farming requires a long-term investment of time, money and hard work. Although pearl farming is relatively simple to learn, the main reason newly established pearl farms fail is the farmer is not prepared to invest enough time and money to take the care required to produce high quality pearls. A period of 2-3 years is required before the first pearl harvest and most pearl farmers will not begin to realize a profit until the second or third harvest. As a prospective farmer, you must have enough money, time and patience to care for the farm during this time.
- Production of high quality pearls is the key to having a profitable farm. Only 5-10% of each crop of pearls will be of high gem quality. From these few, top quality pearls, 90% of the farm profits will come. Pearls of average quality usually sell for only enough to recover the cost of producing them, while lowest quality pearls will bring such low prices that money will be lost in their production. Producing top quality pearls is achieved by taking good care of the pearl oysters during all stages of farming and is also dependent on the skill of the grafting technician. It only takes one mistake to ruin a potentially good pearl, so attention to detail during all stages of farming is very important. Carefully following the instructions in this manual will improve chances of producing enough high quality pearls from the first harvests to begin making a profit.
- Production of high quality pearls is only possible under certain conditions. Before starting a farm, evaluate whether you meet the following criteria describe on next article. ( source : price of cultured pearls )
Article source: The Basic Methods of Pearl Farming, Author: A Layman’s ManualMaria Haws, Ph.D. (Director, Pearl Research and Training Program, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI 96720 USA, Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, Publication No. 127, March 2002)
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