Pearl breeding – from mussel to jewelry
Pearls offered in the market are cultured and have been bred in farms. These farms are set both in fresh and salt water reservoirs depending on the species of mussels.
After implantation the mussels are put in baskets floating under water surface. The water in the reservoir is nutritious, so the mussels grow and cover the implanted tissue with layers of nacre. Farm staff check the temperatures and feeding conditions at different depths everyday. If necessary, they move the baskets with mussels up or down as appropriate. Periodically the mussels are lifted from the water for cleaning and health treatment. Seaweed, barnacles and other water organisms that might interfere with their feeding are removed from the shells. The shells are also treated with medicinal compounds to discourage parasites.
After many months of growth and care, the oysters are ready for harvest. When everything has gone well, a beauty is revealed – the result is a lovely, lustrous and very valuable cultured pearl.
After harvesting, the pearls must be sorted and classified by experts. Sorting pearls is an extremely difficult and time-consuming effort, because there are no two pearls alike. Each pearl must be sorted by size, shape, color and lustre, so it is handled hundreds of times.
After sorting, the pearls are carefully and precisely drilled. Careless handling can lead to splitting and damaging of the pearl. A hole drilled even slightly off-center can ruin a necklace or other piece of jewelry that depends upon the symmetry of its assembly of pearls.
Finally, it comes to matching and stringing. This stage can be even more difficult than sorting, because now experts must compare pearls that are similar in size, shape, lustre and color — looking for nearly exact matches. The art of assembling pearls into a necklace, a pair of earrings or other jewelry requires really refined skills in matching. So this task can be performed only by highly-trained experts with years of experience.
To find 47 pearls for a perfectly matched 16-inch necklace, a pearl processor must cull through more than 10,000 pearls.