Around the world, pearl farming is a family business sustaining its practitioners and their families for generations. Pearl farming is an industry in which families can take pride, given the ways in which the product itself benefits when care is taken to protect its environment. The dedicated, knowledgeable pearl farmer protects the oysters and blossoming pearls in his care in order to ensure continued pearl growth and production.
The process begins with the oyster. In French Polynesia, for example, where Tahitian pearls are born, the oysters are kept in nets or baskets to protect them from predators, such as sea turtles or rays. The baskets are hung vertically on lines spaced 3 feet apart, with the lines running as long as over a mile in places. The end of the line is weighted with a cement block or tied to coral at the sea bottom, with buoys used to keep oysters at a depth of around 20 feet.
When the oyster is large enough, the farmer gently pries it open and inserts a bead or piece of shell for the oyster to place nacre around. Tahitian pearls are known for their size and beauty. To obtain pearls of sufficient size, farmers sometimes remove a smaller pearl and place another shell inside, giving the “practiced” oyster a chance to make another, even larger pearl. Once a pearl is formed and removed, the meat of the oyster may be consumed by the farmer or sold locally.
Pearl farming is a process which requires care and dedication. And continued dedication to the needs and potential sustainability of oysters benefits both the farmer’s product and the environment. The fruit of the pearl farmer’s labors can be admired and appreciated the world over.