Illegal Use of Giant Clam Nuclei
I have heard a couple of rumors about nuclei being illegally made from the Giant Clam shell. Does anyone know about this? Have you heard anything Jshepherd? How can we tell if we are receiving these pearls? Is it concentrated to just a single farm? Or is it just a rumor and nothing else? This is concerning so any info would be appreciated!
Re: Giant Clam Nuclei
This is not a rumor and is actually an escalating problem. It is much more widespread than most people are certainly aware. This is partly because it is very difficult to test the nucleus without destroying the pearl.
The Giant Clam, or the Tridacna is a protected species. It is, however, bring harvested in mass in China to be used as pearl nuclei. The problem is not just in China, however, as these beads are being exported all over the world. The Mississippi nuclei have been the standard for the last century, but exports of these beads has been declining for several years, while pearl output has gone up. I feel that this is largely due to the illegal use of the Giant Clam.
There are two reasons that I feel pearls should not be nucleated with these beads. The first is that the Tridacna is of course and protected species. This is true for all members of the Tridacnidae family. Trading in this species requires special permits that have never been granted for use in pearling. The penalty here in the United States for breaking this law is $200,000, and up to one year in prison! But the controls are just not set up in China to control this illegal trade.
The second reason they should not be used is that pearling standards indicate that the nucleus should be made of the nacreous substance with the same density and material of the pearl itself. The Giant Clam shell does not fit this description and therefore is not considered part of the pearl family.
This can have several adverse effects. The first is that people are completely unaware that they are receiving a pearl with an inferior nucleus. This affects the quality of the pearl, and ultimately its value. Also, these pearls are much more prone to cracking during the drilling process. Unless the pearl seller works his or her own pearls, they probably would never know this.
Like I said, although this problem is originating in China, it is not exclusive to China in that the Chinese are trading these nuclei all over the world at very low prices. Only the farmers ultimately know what they are using. When I deal with a new farm for the first time I always go to the farm to observe the nucleation of the oysters. I check the nuclei, break several into pieces, and ensure that the farmer is dealing with quality product. I do not feel that it is worth the savings up just a few cents per pearl to use this inferior nucleus.
I would suggest that if you are worried about this to talk to the farmer or the agent that is dealing with the farm. Ask for proof of where they obtained their nuclei before making any sizable investment. If they have nothing to hide it will be quite simple for them to produce.
Last edited by jshepherd; 11-10-2004 at 12:08 AM.
Testing the Nucleus
I would like to add that there is a way to test the nucleus without destroying the pearl, but it is still in its early stages.
Doctor Suzuki of Japan University along with The Camden Corporation applied for an International patent in September of last year for a machine they had developed which would identify the contents of a nucleus without damaging the pearl. One of the main intended usages of this machine is to put a stop to the illicit trade of the Tridacna nuclei.
Can this be a possible reason for the cracking pearl problem that I have been experiencing? I have posted this question here in the forum:
This is a possibility. But in your previous post you stated that some nuclei were as hard as rock, while others broke apart.
The density of the Tridacna shell is is less than that of nacre, so the pearl shattering makes sense. However, I am unsure whether or not it would be 'hard' at times.
I know that 'Admin' has contacted a few pearl farms in French Polynesia in regards to your 'Cracking Pearls' thread. I will also drop a note to a farmer friend of mine in the Cook Islands to see if he has any information. Hopefully we will be able to come up with an answer to this intriguing question.
Japanese Pearl Farmers using the giant clam
I just found this article today from Kyodo News in Japan Today!
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 at 12:30 JST
TOKYO — Some Japanese pearl farmers have been cultivating pearls from giant clams that have been imported from China in violation of an international convention restricting their trade, industry sources said Tuesday.
The pearl cultivation industry association has agreed not to use the giant clams to culture pearls, but the pearl farmers have been using them because they are inexpensive, the sources said. (Kyodo News)
It appears as this is a growing problem. What surprises me is that this is being reported from Japan. The Japanese pearl farmers have been fierce in discrediting Chinese pearl farmers that use this form of nuclei. But apparently market forces are stronger than personal ethics for many.
Giant Clam Pearls (not as nuclei)
I support the worldwide ban of using giant clams for nucleation. I have been offered some rare Giant Clam Natural Pearls. They come directly from two Indonesian fisherman. They to have gathered them for years.
My guess is that since the actual pearls are still banned from export/import. DOes anyone know or can anyone quote the US statute?
Unless the author of that article is using English grammar in a way I am not familiar with, the article actually says that the pearl farmers are culturing tridacna gigas pearls. It does not mention their use in nuclei.
Considering the lack of visual appeal of t. gigas pearls, I would wonder why they would do that unless they are planning to do what Fujita first did with his tissue nucleated pearls from Lake Biwa, i.e. selling them as naturals.
Originally Posted by jshepherd
It appears that tridacna gigas is now being cultured for unspecified reasons as this recent article indicates:
I have to qualify the statement on lack of attractiveness. Although the t. gigas pearls tend to look like nothing to write home about, there are some rather pretty cousins in the tridacna family that may produce quite fascinating pearls:
Last edited by Zeide Erskine; 03-07-2006 at 03:16 AM.
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