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Fiji pearls

December 1, 2016
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As you guys know, I am fascinated by primary production. Whether it’s trees, coffee beans or pearls, I want to know how they are grown.

Luckily, there is a pearl farm very close to my home stay here in Savusavu, so I went to visit this morning. Fiji is a small pearl producing country compared to Japan, China and other places but is apparently renowned for the diversity of colors the pearls turn out. It is not a 100% controllable quality and depends on water temperature amongst other things. 

One last factoid worth noting is that pearl oysters do not naturally grow in Fiji waters and therefore have to be bred separately before introducing them in the marine environment. Will have to look up the environmental implications of that one. Also, the core of the pearl is made of a shell found in the Mississippi river of all places! It’s the only suitable material that shows up in x-rays, crucial for proving that it is a genuine (versus fake) and farmed (versus natural) pearl. Think about that next time you buy your pearl jewelry. 

Pictures from the Fiji pearl value chain:

Oyster breeding tanks.

The buoys mark the lines with oyster cages hanging around 15m deep.

Japanese specialists are flown in to perform the insemination, when the artificial core is placed into the oyster.

Discarded oysters. The succesfully inseminated ones go back to the ocean to grow the pearly coat around the seed.

I forgot what this stage was.

Oyster maintenance by boat. They have to be pulled out and cleaned regularly.

Pearl cages. note the different hues along the shells’ edges, indicating the color of the pearl.

The final product: pearls in the left box start at 350 USD each, the sky is the limit.

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