The Pearl Harvest
The pearl harvest is the pay-off for years of investment and hard work. The harvest most-often happens during the winter months as the host mollusks' metabolism slows and nacre platelets become thinner as deposition decreases. This has proven to increase the luster upon harvest.
Pearl Harvest Times Vary
Cultured pearls are harvested from the pearl farms after a nucleation period of 8 months to 6 years. Akoya pearls are typically cultured from 8 months to 2 years, while freshwater, South Sea and Tahitian pearls are cultured from 2-6 years.
Pearl Harvests Usually Occur In Winter
Pearls are almost universally harvested in the winter. During these colder months, the metabolism of the host oyster has decreased, slowing the nacre deposits around the pearl. While slower nacre deposits are reflected in less growth during these colder months, it also enhances the outer layers of the cultured pearls' nacre.
Pearl Harvest Times Vary
The actual harvest begins when the pearls are brought to shore from their mooring positions. The pearls are then opened individually and the pearl or pearls extracted. In the case of akoya oysters and freshwater mussels, the shell and meat are discarded or used for another purpose. South Sea and Tahitian oysters, however, are harvested in much the same fashion as the nucleation. These oysters are opened very slightly, the pearl is extracted, and another nucleus is placed into the preformed pearl sac. This oyster than goes through another recovery period and is placed back into the sea to grow another pearl.
After The Pearl Harvest, The Pearls Are Cleaned Before Being Treated
After all the pearls are harvested they are then cleaned of debris and polished, to bring out a higher luster.
Different Treatments After The Pearl Harvest
After the pearls have been cleaned and polished, they are sorted by quality and size categories. Many of these pearls may then go through further treatment, depending on the type of pearl and the factory preparing the finished goods. The pearls may be bleached, heat treated and pinked (soaked in red dye to enhance the pink coloration of the pearls).
What Determines A Good Pearl Harvest
A good harvest is determined by the number of marketable pearls produced in relation to the number of oysters that were nucleated. The percentage of pearls that are considered high-quality will determine the success of the enterprise. On average, only half of the pearls will be marketable, and less than 10% of these will be considered top-quality.
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