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Thread: Cracking pearls

  1. #16
    Ragnorak
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    Quote Originally Posted by julianner
    I don't know if the clam shell is a darker colour than the Mississippi shell - if it is, and it's cheaper, it could explain the greater frequency in black pearls as, unlike for lighter coloured pearls, the nucleus for a black pearl does not have to be as light in colour so the farmers may think they are economising, without realising that they are causing a problem further along the chain.
    As far as I can remember clam nuclei are on the whole "whiter", but are also more brittle than Mississippi mussel nuclei. They are also denser which doesn't make for a good fit at all when you consider the oyster.

    When you combine these two features it doesn't make an attractive opition for the farmer. Even if the "whiter" calm based nuclei are less expensive.

    Also if I remeber correctly the salt water clam shell can't be tumbled into a sphere as readily as the Mississippi mussel's shell.

    I am attaching a photo of shell nucleii that were used on the farm I visited. Any comments about whether they are clam shell or Mississippi would be appreciated by more than just me, I'm sure.

    I'll also say that I have had pearls drilled that I bought from that farm and they've been fine.

    Note, the pic shows a plastic bag of nucleii in the background and a few loose ones in my hand.
    While I've heard of nuclei being produced in China which look similar to those produced in the US, I can't say I know much about them.

    Though I know farms in FP (and other areas) that used 3rd grade Mississippi nuclei, it didn't effect the look of their pearls.

    I dare say that a lot of farms that produce south seas pearls could also use them (second / third grade US produced nuclei), given the thickness of nacre that would be laid down over a 2 year grow out period. Though I can't say I've heard of any that do. Well not for the first pearl the oyster produces at any rate.
    Last edited by Ragnorak; 04-12-2007 at 07:36 PM.

  2. #17
    Pearling Technologies
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    I know this thread is a little old but if anyone is interested I can probably give a little more information on nuclei - clam, mussel and Bironite. The company I work for was/is a manufacturer of all these items and more.

  3. #18
    Slraep
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearling Technologies

    I know this thread is a little old but if anyone is interested I can probably give a little more information on nuclei - clam, mussel and Bironite. The company I work for was/is a manufacturer of all these items and more.
    Hi PT,

    Oh yes please! Tell us more! Do you also have info about composite nuclei? Who uses them?

    Slraep

  4. #19
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Josh's Avatar
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    George is that you?
    I've used Bironite but don't like it because it's porous, not a clean finish like shell. Slraep that's not what you mean by composite huh? You're talking about glued nuclei aren't you?
    Just yesterday we drilled a strand that had giant clam (bad, bad, bad) nuclei. It's easy to spot because it's hard as hell and really opaque white. We broke 5 drill bits and cracked two pearls. That stuff really sucks.
    Josh Humbert
    Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
    www.kamokapearls.com
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  5. #20
    Pearling Technologies
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    Hi Josh.....yes it's George.

    We've seen a lot of different nucleus material that have been tried. When we did a lot of grinding of reject pearls back into nuclei, we saw some weird stuff. As far as composites are concerned, I think you are right Josh. It is quite difficult to compose a material with a view to transform it into a sphere that is perfectly smooth. Even harder to try and mould a spherical shape!

    There is a company in Germany (I think) producing some pretty good quality glued MOP nuclei - mainly in larger sizes. These have been copied (or at least tried) by some Asian manufacturers with limited results. If the layers are not glued properly, other than splitting, there will be a bump or gap at the edge of each join and this can affect the layering of nacre.

    Bironite is not a composite but a natural material that is altered to improve various characteristics. Some of the stuff that you tried Josh was a little off but technology has and did get better.

    Re drilling, in all testing we did, we did find quite a variation in drilling difficulty even for mussel shell. If you drilled along the layers in the mussel shell nuclei as against into the layer, there was a difference in drilling - even on a 45 degree angle to the layers there was a difference.

    In some clam we worked with, it even drilled a little easier than mussel!

    By far and away, the best material to work with from a manufacturers point of view is clam. Many companies did use it and perhaps still do. It was just more consistent and easier to work with on our machines. Yes it was harder to drill and is a protected species but you know.....

    Of course we are really talking about the larger sizes for these alternative nuclei as the smaller sizes are fairly readily available.

    Chinese versus USA shell.....some but marginal difference. Historically all shell was from USA and prices were high. Some time ago there was even an auction held for larger sizes of nuclei due to their scarceness. This proved somewhat false and over the past 15 years, prices for nuclei have dropped considerably.

    Naturally you get what you pay for and we have always pushed the quality aspect with any of our contacts. You would be amazed what some farmers stick in their oysters!

    Hope some of this is of interest and not too much dribble!!

  6. #21
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Josh's Avatar
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    Default More dribble

    Hi George, good to hear from you again. Don't worry, this is just the place for that sort of dribble.

    I think it's a shame though to use a protected species and even more so when you consider that there is a by-product of pearl farming that works even better than traditional freshwater mussel nuclei. The Pinctada MOP nuclei that we use was tested independently by our Service de la Perliculture and was shown to produce THREE TIMES MORE A (AAA) GRADE PEARLS than any other nucleus type. I don't mean to shout but those are some heavy statistics.

    Patagonia clothing founder and lifelong environmentalist Yvon Chouinard said in his book on biz "Let My People Go Surfing" that anytime in his long years of business that he did the right thing for the environment, he made money. How great would it be if all business owners thought along these lines?
    Last edited by Josh; 01-27-2008 at 10:20 PM. Reason: correction
    Josh Humbert
    Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
    www.kamokapearls.com
    FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls
    @KamokaJosh

  7. #22
    pattye
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    I feel we all want that for you too, Josh!----to continue to do good for the environment and make money!

    Pattye
    so many pearls, so little time


    And yes, George, we want to hear all about that kind of stuff.
    Last edited by pattye; 01-27-2008 at 10:29 PM. Reason: add info

  8. #23
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    and is a protected species but you know.....
    Hi George
    Welcome! Your input is much appreciated.

    Would you mind finishing the above sentence?
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

  9. #24
    Pearling Technologies
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    MOP nuclei are certainly a very good material to work with. Many 'white' pearls farmers are reluctant to use them as they worry about it showing through the nacre. Obviously Josh in your case and other black pearl farmers (and those who have good nacre thickness) it is not a worry.

    The only real problem with MOP is that you cannot get quantity of larger sizes required for 2nd/3rd operation pearls. This is where other materials were needed. Many tests were undertaken with MOP in Australia - both by private companies like ours and research bodies within government and pearling companies - and while they found that results were good, not one company switched.

    I dare say also that the results with actual pearl quality would have less to do with the nucleus raw material as such and more to do with the surface of the nuclei, the process used to smooth/polish the nuclei, the grafting process and of course all husbandry protocols. Josh, not all pearl farmers have your attitude to farming....a shame really.

    We have seen excellent pearls grown on many different materials - nacre will grow on just about anything. Clam is ok (even if using farmed clam) but cannot see it being used widely due to the drilling aspect; Bironite could be workable and we have some nice pearls grown using this nuclei; we still use plastic nuclei for mabe and these produce very nice pearls.

  10. #25
    Pearling Technologies
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    Sure! Protected species but you know.......some suppliers don't care.

    We have found many suppliers of nuclei ex Asia supplying nuclei made from clam shell but calling it something else to suggest it is a mussel shell based nuclei. It's easy to tell the difference if you know what to look for (although some are a little more difficult).

    Once beads are made from the shell, it is harder for the layperson to tell and that makes it even harder to be prosecuted for it.

  11. #26
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    It smacks of the same attitude as lead in kid's toys.......
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

  12. #27
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Josh's Avatar
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    Who knows why MOP would produce higher quality pearls but I can only wonder if it's not a compatibility issue. Putting pearl on pearl seems to make mores sense than pearl on clam or plastic. Not only that, it's a dream to drill. Also it's silly for "white" pearl farmers to stay away from MOP as it's often perfectly white. Just like here and everywhere else, farmers are reluctant to switch to something new although it may be better in every sense. You can lead a horse to water but you can't get him to graft with MOP, or something like that.
    Josh Humbert
    Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
    www.kamokapearls.com
    FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls
    @KamokaJosh

  13. #28
    Valeria101
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    If the match of nacre structure rather then any chemical details is what matters no synthetics stand a chance to reproduce the effect

    Just thinking out loud...


    Quote Originally Posted by Josh
    Who knows why MOP would produce higher quality pearls but I can only wonder if it's not a compatibility issue.
    So.. would it be fair to say that using nuclei from the same species of shell that receives them gets better results? Are there any other cases besides yours?

  14. #29
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Josh's Avatar
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    It's all just guess work for now but that makes sense to me. Don't know of any similar cases except blood and bone transfers.
    Josh Humbert
    Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
    www.kamokapearls.com
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    @KamokaJosh

  15. #30
    Valeria101
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh
    It's all just guess work for now but that makes sense to me. Don't know of any similar cases except blood and bone transfers.
    Hm... that's where imunology comes to play. Tissue structure counts for even more exotic stuff - tissue engineering and such. Don't worry, this is all I know about these from the odd business presentation. With mussels and MOP, direct experiements may be cheaper then any kind of 'theory'...

    Anyone knows whether the 'South Sea' pearls are obtained with nucleii from the same P. Maxima?