A Brief History of Pearls: South Sea Pearl Cultivation

  A brief history of pearls


South Sea pearls, which come from Pinctada maxima, or the White lipped oyster, are among the largest available. They're typically white or gold, and they have a truly unique luster quality.

South Sea Pearl Cultivation

The rarest of all pearl types, South Sea pearls are carefully cultivated near Indonesia and Australia. They come from wild, handpicked oysters, and strict quotas have been established to prevent the species' depletion.

Finding White lipped Oysters for South Sea Pearls

Divers typically search up to 80 meters below the surface to find healthy, mature White lipped oysters to cultivate pearls. Some South Sea pearling operations use pearling ships to send divers into the water in search of oysters. After the oysters are plucked from their natural habitats, they're moved to isolated bays away from industrial waters that may contain pollution that would interrupt the production of pearls.

Nucleating White lipped Oysters

In order to get White lipped oysters to produce a pearl pearl farmers must nucleate them. The term nucleate refers to the process of making an incision in the oyster's soft tissue, or mantle, and inserting an irritant that causes the oyster to protect itself by excreting nacre. Layers of nacre coat the irritant, and the nacre hardens to create a pearl.

X-Rays for Oysters

Between 3 and 4 months after nucleation, each White lipped oyster is X-rayed to confirm that it hasn't rejected its nucleus. Oysters that have rejected the nucleus are discarded, while those that are developing a pearl are returned to their isolated bay.

How Long Does it Take South Sea Pearls to Develop?

A South Sea pearl develops over a 2- to 3-year period. In most cases, the longer a pearl takes to develop, the larger it will become.

How Valuable Are South Sea Pearls?

South Sea pearls are typically the most valuable of all cultured pearls. They're scarce and large, and those two factors alone make them valuable.

How pearls form in oysters
How pearls are harvested
How pearls brought to market
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Akoya Pearl Cultivation
Akoya Pearl Harvesting
Akoya Pearl Processing
Akoya Pearl Evaluation
Quality Factor One: Luster
Luster of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Two: Surface
Surface of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Three: Shape
Shape of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Four: Color
Color of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Five: Size
Size of Akoya Pearls
Know your South Sea pearls
South Sea Pearl Cultivation
South Sea Pearl Harvesting
South Sea Pearl Processing
South Sea Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of South Sea Pearls
Surface of South Sea Pearls
Shape of South Sea Pearls
Color of South Sea Pearls
Size of South Sea Pearls
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Tahitian Pearl Cultivation
Tahitian Pearl Harvesting
Tahitian Pearl Processing
Tahitian Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of Tahitian Pearls
Surface of Tahitian Pearls
Shape of Tahitian Pearls
Color of Tahitian Pearls
Size of Tahitian Pearls
Gift Giving Occasions

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