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HARVESTING OF POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

HARVESTING OF POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

wa mj ar pearls wholesaleIf, at two years, all of the indications are good, the oysters are harvested. A number of farms now have two or more harvests a year. At this time, the oysters are brought to the installation or laboratory Where the initial insertion took place and are opened by a technician who then examines the
interior.

If the operation is successful and a pearl is found, it is removed carefully. The harvested pearls are washed, dried, and lightly polished by rubbing in salt in preparation for sorting and grading. On a few of the farms, the oyster may be reoperated on after a period of rest (V Dockendorf, pers. comm., 1989). On average, 55% of the oysters will accept the operation the first time. A return of 30% commercially acceptable pearls is considered a very good harvest (C. Rosenthal, pers. comm., 1989).

If the oyster has rejected the bead nucleus, the technician will check to see if a “keshi” (mantle tissue-nucleated pearl) has been created from the piece of mantle tissue that was inserted. In any case, if the mollusk that rejected the bead is deemed healthy, another implant may be attempted.

Again, some farms will elect to make mabes at this stage rather than risk a second implant because of the high mortality rate for mollusks after the second insertion.

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GRADING

Five factors are commonly used by the trade to grade Polynesian black pearls: color, luster, shape, size, and surface features. Color and Orient. In the context of black pearls, one of the most important factors, “color,” consists of two components: body color (the basic color presented by the pearl) and overtone (the hues seen superimposed on top of the body color). Body color can be subdivided into six groups: silver, silver blue, gold, brown-black, green-black, and black (figure 13).

Overtone is typically a mixture of colors that is best observed as the pearl is rotated. Created by light passing through the layers of pink, lavender, blue, “peacoclz” blue, gold, green, or a reddish purple called aubergine (after the French word for eggplant). The color most characteristic of fine Polynesian black pearls is a greenish blaclz (also referred to as “peacoclz”) that sometimes has an aubergine overtone. Because other South Sea pearl-bearing oysters may also produce silver, silver-blue, and golden pearls, these latter colors are more plentiful in the market and therefore may command a lower price than the various combinations of black-colored pearls.

Also caused by the passage of white light through the many layers of nacre is the rainbow like play of color that seems to hover about the surface of some pearls. Called orient, it is not always prominent in blaclz pearls, although it is readily visible in the finer grades. Luster. Luster is the quality of light reflections from the surface of the pearl. As taught in the current CIA pearl course, luster is considered high when reflections are bright and sharp, and low when tKe9 are weak and fuzzy. In blaclz pearls, much of the light is reflected from the surface, thus producing excellent luster in most. In the trade, this brilliance is called eclat, from the French word for shiny.

Shape. Shape can be divided into three main categories: round or spherical, symmetrical, and baroque. The most highly prized is the perfectly round pearl that will roll in every direction when placed on a flat surface (Lintilhac, p. 70). Symmetrical pearls are pear-, egg-, or button-shaped; some are evenly elongated. The baroque-pearl category
contains all the irregular shapes and is the most interesting to many pearl enthusiasts.

Currently, there is an abundance of baroque pearls from the South Seas (see figure 14). American pearl grower John Latendresse feels that the disproportionate number of baroques is due to the poor quality of bead that has been supplied to the Polynesian pearl farmers. His examination of black-pearl nuclei reveals that many are infested with parasites whose presence alters to bits of organic material on the surface of the beads (figure 15), referred to in the trade as wax. “Nacre won’t adhere to the nucleus in places where there is wax,” Latendresse explains. ‘As a result, you get baroque pearls” (Federman, 1985). The desire for improved quality and a steady supply has led black-pearl producers to find beads outside the traditional sources of supply in Japan (C. Rosenthal, pers. comm., 1989).

Size. Size is the most readily determined feature of a pearl. Pearl sieves, much like diamond sieves, with holes ranging from 9 mm to 13 mm, are used initially to separate pearls into batches. Polynesian black cultured pearls generally average between 9 mm and 12 mm. Since the diameter of the typical Surface. As is the case with all pearls, surface imperfections such as pits, bumps, ridges, cracks, and spots lower the grade on a Polynesian blaclz pearl. Rings, actually parallel furrows that encircle the pearl, represent an unusual though often attractive surface feature (figure 17). Most rings, according to Latendresse (pers. comm., 1989), result from the pearl being nucleated near the hinge of the two shells. In a cultured blaclz pearl, a line on the surface of the nucleus bead may produce rings (again, see figure 15).

Pearl Grading System. Systems used in the trade to grade blaclz pearls typically consist of a series of letters that indicate shape and surface features. Lintilhac (1987) describes one such system:

  • S = Shape
  • R = Round
  • D = Drop or pear
  • Brq = Baroque
  • But = Button
  • Circ = Circled (Ringed)
  • Surface and Luster (figure 18)
  • A = Pearls with a flawless skin and high brilliance with one pit or pinprick
  • B = Pearls that are less brilliant and have two or three surface blemishes
  • C = Pearls that are somewhat dull or have four or more surface blemishes
  • D = Pearls that are definitely dull or marred by deeper flaws A similar system used by Assael International is outlined by Federman (1987).

Articles source: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS, By Marisa Goebel and Dona Mary Dirlam
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Wholesale tahitian pearls : ANATOMY OF THE OYSTER AND COMPOSITION OF THE POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

Wholesale tahitian pearls : ANATOMY OF THE OYSTER AND COMPOSITION OF THE POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

Wholesale tahitian pearlsOf the more than 70 species of mollusks (from the phyllum Molluscs) that can produce pearls, the majority belong to the Pinctada family. Pinctada maxima, the white-lipped or gold-lipped oyster, is prized for both its shell and the large gold-colored and white pearls it produces. It lives in the South Seas, Burma, New Guinea, the Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia Pearls or Lombok Pearls. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Pinctada fucata martensii, commonly called Alzoya, has a thin shell of no commercial importance but is valued for its small (usually less than 9 mm] white pearls, which are abundant on the world market today. These mollusks are found in China and Japan. Pinctada margaritifera, the blaclz-lipped oyster, is prized for both its mother-of-pearl shell and its large gray to black pearls. Pearl-bearing inargaritifera are found in Peru, Baja California, Panama, Indonesia, Micronesia, the Red Sea, the Philippines, and Olzinawa, as well as French Polynesia. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

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(Photo & source: Wholesale tahitian pearls)

Oysters, bivalve mollusks like the Pinctada, have two symmetrical shells hinged together by a ligament. The life span of l? inargaritifera ranges up to 30 years; a single oyster can weigh up to 11 lbs. (about 5 kg) and reach a diameter of 12 in. (about 30 cm). A powerful adductor muscle holds the two shells together, leaving an indentation on the inner surface. One of the most distinctive characteristics of the black-lipped shell is the greenish black color on its inside edges, which is duplicated in many of the fine pearls from this molluslz. The two most important organs in producing
pearls are the mantle and the gonad (figure 8). Not only does the mantle form the shell, but each part of the mantle also secretes different layers of nacre. The gonad is the reproductive gland, a large whitish sack that holds the eggs or
sperm. In the culturing process, the bead nucleus and a piece of mantle tissue are inserted into the gonad to produce a cultured pearl. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Nacre, the essential ingredient of all pearls, is composed of approximately 90% aragonite (orthorhombic calcium carbonate crystals) and 5% conchiolin (an organic protein that binds the aragonite crystals together), together with other organic material; the most abundant trace elements in I? margaritifera are magnesium, strontium, and sodium (Wada, 198 1, p. 154). The nacre is secreted in concentric layers about a micron thick. Cultured pearls have a refractive index of 1.53-1.69 and a specific gravity range of 2.72-2.78. The average hardness is 3.5. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

CULTURING POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

While natural black pearls are still found occasionally, nearly all the black pearls on the market today are cultured. Most natural black pearls have slightly less luster and tend to be larger than their cultured equivalents. Culturing is essentially a two-part process: first, the cultivation of the oyster, P. margaritifera, and second, the growth of the pearl in this oyster. The technique is essentially the same one Mikimoto used to develop the Japanese pearl-culturing industry (Shirai, 1970). Mikimoto even did some culturing experiments with l? margaritifera in 1920, when he established an experimental station at Palau (Cahn, 1949; George, 1979). ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

The oysters used in the culturing process are still drawn from the limited resources in the water around the islands. Although some are retrieved by independent divers (who continue to be restricted by the Tahiti government to certain zones of the atolls), most are produced by spat cultivation. In a contemporary adaptation of Bouchon  Brandely’s original program, young oysters are placed in nurseries, suspended from metal nets by stainless steel or nylon wires, until they are old enough-at least two to three years old-to be used for pearl culturing (figure 9). Some farms are also experimenting with growing mollusks in tanks; positive results are anticipated. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Pearl culturing consists of inserting into the gonad of the oyster a bead made of freshwater mussel shell along with a graft of mantle tissue from another live black-lipped oyster. The nucleus is typically made from the mother-of-pearl of a Mississippi River (U.S.) molluslz. Once, only the pigtoe mussel was used; today, three species found in central and southern tributaries of the Mississippi River also provide good nuclei. The mantletissue graft is an essential component of the culturing process, both in terms of stimulating the secretion of nacre and in determining the color and other features of the finished pearl. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

The entire operation of inserting the bead and tissue takes one to two minutes and is usually done by Japanese, Australian, or Polynesian technicians. The technician chooses the appropriate nucleus size for the oyster being used, typically a bead 5-9 mm in diameter, and then makes a small incision in the gonad, into which the nucleus and mantle-tissue graft are placed (figure 10). The experience of the technician is invaluable in ensuring that the oyster
used is healthy, that the largest bead possible is selected, and that the various components are not damaged in the course of the operation. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Once the procedure is completed, the oysters are attached to a nylon rope through holes drilled in the shells. In some farms, the oysters are placed individually in net bags, which catch any beads that are rejected. A diver then attaches the chain of oysters to an underwater platform (figure 11). The operation takes place typically between June and
September, the winter months for this region, when the water is cooler and there is less risk of violent storms. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

If an oyster rejects the bead, it will generally do so in the first two months following the surgery. Some well-equipped farms have been lznown to X-ray the oysters to see if the nucleus has been rejected or if it is in place properly, but this technique is used much less frequently today than it was in the past (R. Wan, pers. comm., 1989). Oysters that reject their beads can be re-operated on after a couple of months of rest. On some farms, these oysters are instead used to create mabes or assembled cultured blister pearls. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Approximately two years must pass before the success of this operation is lznown. At that time, a few mollusks are brought to the surface and checked to see if a pearl has formed and, if so, how thick the nacre is. With three or four layers of nacre deposited a day, a pearl cultured in P. margaritifera will develop a nacre thickness of 2 to 2.5 inm in
two yea&, compared to 1 mm developed by an Akoya pearl over the same time span. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

During the growth period, the oysters must be watched constantly. They are brought to the surface and the barnacles cleaned off several times a year. Predators, parasites, hurricanes, pollution, and piracy are a constant threat. In both 1983 and 1985, hurricanes did profound damage to oysters, equipment, and buildings in French Polynesia on farms in the Tuamotu Archipelago (Cohen, 1983; C. Rosenthal, pers. comm., 1989). ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Currently the lagoons of two archipelagos – the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambler Islands – are used primarily for cultivating pearls and the mother-of-pearl shells that are now the byproduct of this important industry in French
Polynesia. Efforts are being made to find other suitable lagoons. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )

Articles source: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS, By Marisa Goebel and Dona Mary Dirlam. ( source: Wholesale tahitian pearls )
south sea pearls wholesaleFor Questions and answer you can contact & chat with us on:

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Tahitian pearls wholesale : POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

Tahitian pearls wholesale: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

wa mj ar pearls wholesaleHistorically, natural black pearls have been one of the rarest and most exotic of gem materials. In the 1960s, however, a black-pearl culturing industry was initiated. Today, cultured black pearls play a prominent role throughout the international jewelry community. This article reviews the history of Polynesian black pearls, the development of culturing and the techniques involved, grading, treatments and identification, and the factors responsible for their growing popularity in the 1980s. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The 1980s have seen an explosion of interest in the cultured blaclz pearls of French Polynesia, five groups of island archipelagos in the South Pacific. Twenty years ago, blaclz pearls were a mere curiosity appreciated by a handful of people. Today, cultured black pearls, often called Tahitian pearls or Tahitian cultured pearls, can be found in fine jewelry stores throughout the world. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The large black-lipped oyster that produces black pearls, Pinctada marguritifera, is found in the coastal waters of Peru, Baja California, Panama, Indonesia Lombok Pearls, Micronesia, the Red Sea, the Philippines, and Olzinawa (a prefecture of Japan), as well as French Polynesia. Yet natural blaclz pearls are extremely rare compared to their white counterparts. In the 1960s, however, with the aid of Japanese technicians, pearl farmers in French Polynesia mastered the culturing of blaclz pearls. Like the natural black pearls, the Polynesian cultured pearls are large and often noted for their superb luster and orient, as well as for the unusual gray-to-black range of color (figure 1). To this day, the vast majority of black-pearl culturing is in Polynesia. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

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Photo & data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale

With the greater availability of black pearls has emerged a broader market in the jewelry industry, as is evidenced by their regular presence both in retail stores and at auction. Problems have also arisen, such as concern that the pearls might have been dyed or irradiated (Maitlins and Bonanno, 1987). To provide a better understanding of this exotic material, this article will review the history, biology, and culturing of blaclz pearls. It will also describe grading parameters and how to detect treatments used on pearls from other mollusl~sto mimic the Polynesian blacks and, more recently, on some Polynesian cultured pearls as well. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

THE SOURCE: FRENCH POLYNESIA – Tahitian pearls wholesale

Midway between Australia and North America-at approximately 17 south latitude and 151′ west longitude-is a group of 130 islands known as French Polynesia (see figure 2). This land mass of 1,550 square miles (9,600 lzm2) is divided into five archipelagos: the Society Islands, the Leeward Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, and the Australes. The blaclz pearls are cultivated primarily in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago (figure 3) and the Gambier Islands, the waters of which have been found to provide a perfect environment for P. margaritifera (Salomon and Roudnitslza, 1986). (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The shell of P. margaritifera was treasured by native Polynesians long before the European explorers arrived. According to Tahitian legends, blaclz pearls were considered to be emanations from the gods. One important god, Oro, traveled to earth by means of his rainbow, which was believed to be the source of the iridescence in the pearl and its shell (Salomon and Roudnitslza, 1986). In September 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Nufiez de Balboa (1475-1519) first arrived in what is now French Polynesia and claimed the group of islands for Spain. Later, European sailors recounted in their logs and diaries the abundance of giant mollusks in the warm, shallow waters of the South Sea islands, and the ease with which they could be retrieved (Lintilhac, 1987). Unfortunately, little is known about how the pearls were used by native Polynesians or the early European visitors. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The earliest record of shell jewelry dat(Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)es from 1722, when Roggeveen, a Dutch navigator, noted that the people wore silver disks in their ears and pendants of mother-of-pearl (see figure 4). Some of the ceremonial uses included decorating robes with shells and filling eyes in sculpture with mother-of-pearl. Kunz and Stevenson (1908) describe how Tahiti’s monarch Queen Pomare played marbles with blaclz pearls in the early 1800s. In 1842, Polynesia became a protectorate of France, ending over 300 years of conflict with other European countries. During the 19th century, navigators from France, England, the Netherlands, and elsewhere traded flour, cloth, nails, and alcohol to the divers for mother-of-pearl shells that they used in jewelry, as inlay in furniture, and as buttons. They also brought back pearls, some of which were undoubtedly incorporated into fine jewelry. A few historically important natural black-pearl pieces are lznown today, although the source of the pearls cannot always be established. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

In May 1989, for example, Christie’s Geneva auction sold (for $104,310) a stunning fringe necklace of 35 graduated natural blaclz, silver, and gray pearls that had belonged to the Spanish ambassador to Russia, the Duke of Osuna, in the 1850s. Twining (1960) describes “The Azra” black pearl, part of a famous necklace in the Russian crown jewels that eventually came into the possession of the Youssoupoff family. Another black pearl on a diamond necklace that had once been owned by the Youssoupoff family was auctioned for $130,000 by Christie’s in 1980. The April 1984 Christie’s auction of jewels from the estate of Florence J. GoulcI featured a period piece with natural gray pearls set in a dramatic diamond, platinum, and white gold brooch [figure 5). (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The 1840s were marked by heavy harvesting of the black- lipped oyster. By 1850, reports indicated concern that the oysters were becoming scarce and had to be recovered from greater depths of water (Lintilhac, 1987). As the overharvesting progressed, the French government intervened by establishing seasonal diving periods. By 1885, the French government realized that the pearling industry would not survive in the South Sea islands unless more dramatic steps were taken. The government then hired biologists to determine ways to replenish l? margaritifera, One of these biologists, Bouchon Brandely, suggested a strict prohibition on fishing in certain oysterbearing lagoons. More importantly, he recommended collecting spats, or young oysters, and placing them in a protected area. The resulting concentration of oysters created an ideal environment for reproduction, so much so that even today, spat cultivating is the primary way of guaranteeing the oyster population. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

At the time Bouchon Brandely suggested cultivating spats, the economic impetus was the demand for mother-of-pearl; any pearls found were simply by-products. Black pearls did not become more than an attractive oddity until culturing in P. inargaritifera was achieved in the 1960s. Early in that decade, French veterinarian Jean Marie Domard
began to study culturing; in 1962, he brought Figure 6. These baroque cultured blaclz pearls (the largest is 16 x 8 mm) came from the first harvest of the Rosenthal farm on Manihi Atoll. Courtesy of John Latendresse; photo by Robert Weldon. a Japanese specialist to Polynesia, who implanted 5,000 oysters. By 1965, they had obtained 1,000
gem-quality cultured blaclz pearls (Lintilhac, 1987). (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

The first pearl farm in French Polynesia was started in 1966 on the Manihi Atoll in the lkamotu Archipelago by Hubert and Jacques Rosenthal, grandsons of “pearl king” Leonard Rosenthal, author (1920) and scion of a French jewelry family known for their fabulous pearl jewels. The Tahitian government encouraged the Rosenthals to help develop the culturing industry in Polynesia. Through the efforts of Japanese specialist Renji Wada and site manager Kolzo Chaze, the farm was in full operation by 1968 (figure 6). It continues today, managed by Leonard’s great grandson, Cyril Rosenthal. Over the course of the next 20 years, culturing developed into a viable export industry as the technical expertise evolved to produce large, fine-quality blaclz pearls for the jewelry community. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

Articles source: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS, By Marisa Goebel and Dona Mary Dirlam. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)
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Wholesale pearl earrings : Pearl auctions

Wholesale pearl earrings : Pearl auctions

Source: Poe Vira Vira, April 2008 (courtesy of Jewellery News Asia, April 2008, reference: Wholesale pearl earrings )

wa mj ar pearls wholesaleThe international pearl auctions held in February and March 2008 in Hong Kong concluded with good results, although buyers generally adopted a more cautious attitude amid worries over the slow moving US economy. (reference: wholesale pearl earrings )

PASPALEY: Commenting on prices, chairman of Kobe–based Hosei Co Ltd, Yoshihiro Shimuzi, noted that prices were stable for cleaner better quality merchandise that were in demand, but were softer for spotted or lower quality items. (reference: wholesale pearl earrings )

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Leung Sik Wah, director of Hong Kong-based Cogent Trading Co Ltd, and co-organizer at the Paspaley auction commented that buyers adopted a “wait and see” attitude in the face of economic uncertainties. “Nobody knows what will happen in three to six months’ time. Given the sub-prime issue and falling stock markets, buyers have become more cautious — buying just what they need and being less willing to stock up”. The 38th Paspaley Pearl Auction, a three-day event, sold 148,769 pieces (420 kg) of white and golden South Sea pearls or 64% of the total on offer. Average price per pearl was USD 88.23. Buyers attendance was high (105) and Europeans topped the buyers list, thanks to the strong Euro. Large sizes and baroques captured the attention of buyers at the Paspaley Hong Kong auction. Several lots consisted of only one pearl, mostly 16 mm, and fetched high prices. The one with the highest per-gram price was a 16 mm (6.18 g) white pearl with pinkish overtones which sold for USD 4,137. Over 20 lots of baroques on offer were bid for strongly. Lot #552 containing nine baroques of 20 mm and above fetched USD 35,284. (reference: wholesale pearl earrings )

ROBERT WAN: Marked price increases were reported at the 39th Robert Wan Tahiti Perles Auction, which fetched 3.89 million Euros, or USD 5.94 million for the 124,633 pearls (283.3 kg) sold at an average price per pearl of 31.04 Euros/USD 47.67. Robert Wan was very happy with the auction because not only was the price maintained, more pearls of better luster and better colours and more larger pearls were available. A larger quantity of 12–14 mm pearls were on offer. Prices were considerably higher overall due to higher overall pearl quality, more bigger sizes and better sorting said Mr Shimuzu of Hosei. President of Wong’s Diamond and Pearls Co Ltd in Hong Kong, Wong Yik Nin, estimated an average price increase of 10%. Buyer attendance was high with Japan remaining the top buying market followed by United States and Great Britain (reference: wholesale pearl earrings )

POE RAVA NUI: The 8th Poe Rava Nui Tahiti Pearl Auction sold 77% of pearls on offer, with a total sale value of around 3 million Euros, or USD 4.6 million. The average size of the pearls on offer was about 1.4 g. Larger pearls of the 13 mm to 18 mm sizes received strong bids especially from buyers in Europe and the US. (reference: wholesale pearl earrings )
wholesale pearl earringsFor Questions and answer you can contact & chat with us on:

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Pearls Fiji

Pearls Fiji

wa mj ar pearls wholesaleJustin Hunter had a big dream. Why not, he thought, grow pearls that looked nothing like the traditional black pearl. Why not produce pearls in beautifully distinctive hues that are also larger than what are traditionally grown. So he came back home to Fiji from the United States to establish J. Hunter Pearls Fiji in 1999 where he implemented his bold new pearl farming techniques.

Now, he is reaping the rewards of his innovative thinking… and his pearls are highly sought after for their uniqueness and their untraditional colors. Justin’s dream did not end with growing the world’s best pearls. His goal was to blend pearl farming with Fiji’s natural environment and its indigenous people to create a working partnership.
Justin is intensely committed to keeping the marine environment of Savusavu Bay in its pristine condition and to improving the lives of the people of the community.

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J. Hunter Pearls Fiji provides much needed jobs for local people, which give them the resources to improve their villages and their lifestyles. Justin’s commitment also includes providing school scholarships to deserving students and to be personally involved with the Savusavu community at large.

Before Kokichi Mikimoto discovered the technique of culturing pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved for only the noble and very rich. But the technology of pearl culturing changed all that. These days, of course, most all pearls are cultured. That is to say, the hand of man enters into nature’s realm to begin the process of making a pearl, then nature takes her course while the farmer continues aiding the process with specific oyster management. Today, Justin Hunter and his team of farmers and technicians are
perfecting the pearl culturing process. Every step of the operation is carefully managed, with years spent refining the methods toward the ultimate goal of growing the perfect pearl. Everyone at J. Hunter Pearls Fiji is devoted to the creation of beautiful pearls, utilizing the uniquely colored oyster shells that grow naturally in Savusavu Bay, creating pearls that are exceptionally different from all others.

J. Hunter Pearls Fiji was established in 1999 when Justin Hunter returned home to Fiji after he earned his marine biology degree and gained his aquaculture experience with Taylor Shellfish Inc., of the US. Justin spent his childhood in the small township of Savusavu, and it was his goal to find a way to use his aquaculture expertise and live in his favorite place in the world: Fiji. Creating J. Hunter Pearls, along with his partners who are also his cousins from Taylor Shellfish Inc., has been a dream come true.

The company

J. Hunter Pearls Fiji is situated in Savusavu Town on the island of Vanua Levu in the north of Fiji, an area that’s still largely untouched. This unspoiled location provides a truly unique location for aquaculture. The pearls are cultured in a natural environment that’s largely free of impurities and pollution. The office and jewelry boutique is situated on Main Street in Savusavu Town, close to the wharf, while the pearl farm is just a short distance away on the bay. The
founder, Justin Hunter, is an active community citizen who strives to protect and maintain Savusavu Bay’s healthy marine environment. J. Hunter Pearls Fiji works closely with the traditional owners of the local fishing rights and provides much-needed jobs for the community, such as contracting work to women’s groups to help the villagers improve their standard of living. The company also sponsors village improvements and provides a school scholarship annually for deserving students.

Justin is using his expertise in aquaculture toward innovative and carefully-managed pearl farming. His goal is to make J. Hunter Pearls known as the world’s supplier of Fiji Pearls, beautiful pearls in colors not found anywhere else. In 2005, J. Hunter Pearls won the Unique Exporter of the Year award presented by the Fiji Trades and Investment Bureau, in the coveted Exporter of the Year category.

The pearls

J. Hunter Pearls are a tribute to their unique environment, and the singular expertise of those who graft and nurture them. As Justin himself told us: “I thought you might just like to look at what we are producing. We have some of the best multicolored pearls being produced anywhere. The size of our pearls is also very good, averaging around 10.5 mm for the first seed. We are producing around 120 kilograms this year.”

“As you can see, we are not trying to mass produce the same pearl over and over again in huge quantities (à la Tahiti). We are really trying to produce something different for which we will hopefully be able to eke out a small niche market. And we proudly guarantee these pearls to be totally natural — neither dyed, colored nor enhanced in any way. They are grown in the warm pristine waters of Savusavu Bay, on the island of Vanua Levu of northern Fiji, where the environment remains precisely as nature intended it.” These nutrient-rich waters feed the oysters so well that J. Hunter pearls have a nacre thickness averaging 1.6 mm, well above the established nacre thickness of other pearl growing countries. “Most of our crop (around 65%) now fits into the lighter shade of pearls. We believe that the oyster we cultivate (produced from our own hatchery) is a sub-species of the oyster that survives in the atoll,” says Justin. “Our oysters have distinctively colored shells and pearls,” continues Justin. “And, as you can see, the shells we have are striking and in return they produce pretty striking pearls that I am quite sure you have not seen the likes of, ever before”.

Operations

According to Ben Ponia, Aquaculture Adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community: “The J. Hunter Pearls label is quickly becoming an exclusive high quality product line for Fijian pearls. The farm success is the result of attention to a number of critical factors such as good business acumen, attention to marketing and consultation with local communities. “Under the managerial direction of Justin Hunter, the farm has approximately 500,000 oysters under
cultivation and the pearl harvest grosses several million Fijian dollars per annum. “Upon arrival I viewed several crops that had just been harvested. The pearls display the usual spectacular array of color which Fiji pearls are becoming renowned for”.

Amongst this crop some dark “chocolate” colored pearls were pointed out. “The quality of pearls is probably in part due to the expertise of Japanese technicians employed by the farm. These technicians also provide seeding services for other pearl farmers in the surrounding area. The J. Hunter operation is also expanding to another location.

“The pearl farm operates its own hatchery and routine spawning operations were underway during my visit. The Fiji oysters appear to have a high fecundity and large sized eggs, which could be related to the nutrient rich water quality environment of Savusavu Bay. “The pearl oyster egg sizes and spawn quantities seem larger than what are normally obtained in the Pacific region, quite likely a result of the nutrient rich waters, causing the oysters to have an unusually healthy gonadal condition.

“Whilst the hatchery is not large by commercial standards, it still has scope for expansion and could accommodate other species. “The farm also employs a University of the South Pacific graduate as its biologist to carry out ecological baseline studies, particularly water quality monitoring and carrying out basic pearl grow out experiments. “The pearl farm provides direct benefits through avenues such as employment (of all genders and a range of ages) but also indirectly through the business that the high investment pearl farming enterprise generates. “The farm also pays a dividend from its profits to the local village. For example, it has provided funds for a community hall, which also serves as emergency shelter in case of hurricanes.

“In addition, the farm sponsors an education scholarship for young students from the village. Those interested to know more about the farm operations can visit their website. “Whilst at the farm we discussed the possibility of carrying out some mabe-pearl seeding trials. The Hunter Pearl Farm has thousands of reject oysters that could be used for the experiments. It would be particularly interesting if the geographical scope for this experiment could be standardized and extended throughout the Pacific and other countries.”

The product

Justin is also proud of the finished product in which his pearls ultimately appear: “When setting our pearls, we showcase the singular beauty and uniqueness of each pearl. “Our ring and pendant collections are inspired by the individual characteristics of our high quality pearls. “All diamonds in our pieces are supplied in the VS1 to SI clarity categories and are H-I in color. “Our pearl necklaces and earrings are all hand-matched, with each piece being uniquely beautiful.”

Fiji pastels

“When we first took our pearls to Japan in 2003, we could not, for the life of us, get anyone to purchase our Pastel  / Fiji light pearls. “Now we get a premium price for our pastel pearls. Early on, though, most buyers that looked at our pearls initially said they were interesting but did not want to take the risk of supplying something completely new to the market… but we believed in both our product and with the concept of developing a new and exciting product, says Justin.

The auction

J. Hunter’s Fiji Pearls Auction was held in Japan on June 15th, 2007. At this event were offered approximately 30,000 pearls in 89 lots with an average size of 11.5 mm. The biggest round pearl was 18 mm. Participants numbered 18 from countries such as Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, and several other locales. Seven were from Europe. Those in attendance delivered the following comments:

  • “The world pearl market has been longing for something new like Fiji pearls.”
  • “We were amazed at the various colors of Fiji pearls, colors which we have never seen before.”
  • “The strong luster impressed me a great deal.”
  • “These were rare and larger pearls, compared with Tahitian pearls.”
  • “I appreciate J. Hunter’s farmer’s concept.” Justin’s comments “Our unique marine environment and careful selection of oysters possessing rich color variation have produced these pearls that are in a class of their very own.”
  • “Our vision is to continue the work we have started. We look to be champions of a new direction of pearl farming. We will look to challenge the current corporate style of systematic mass production of pearls and focus instead on producing high quality pearls.
  • “We will continue to work to provide truly unique pearls that represent Fiji.” “I have been very fortunate to have great people behind this venture that believed in what we were doing, and made this work. “Our recent auction has given us the success we have been working so hard for”.

Editor’s note :  A follow-up article in the most recent issue of Pearl World (October–December 2008) describes the second auction of pearls from J. Hunter Pearls Fiji in Yokohama earlier this year. It reports that 90% of lots were sold. There was particularly keen bidding for a 18.9 mm round pearl and for baroques in “earthy” colors which are in demand. The article also reported on expansion of J. Hunter Pearls activities to a second 250 ha farm site at Kioa in the northern group of Fiji. This farm site will greatly increase production in coming years.

Article Source: Pearl World, The International Pearling Journal, volume 16, number 4 (December 2007)
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