• Kamoka - The People, The Place, and The Pearls

    Where do your pearls come from? Almost everything we consume these days we use without knowing who made it or what the process was to create such a thing.

    But when you wear a Kamoka pearl, there?s an enchanting story that comes along with it. The pearl farm prides itself on supporting the health of its tropical lagoon and creating a happy atmosphere for everyone that works there. Each Kamoka pearl brings a little of that dream-like place with it.

    Kamoka Pearl Farm is located on remote Ahe Atoll in French Polynesia about 300 miles north of Tahiti. An atoll is a ring of coral land that encircles a big, protected lagoon (where the pearl oysters are raised).

    Kamoka is a small family affair with only a few workers, many who have been with the farm for ten years or more.

    Tahitian pearls come from the Pinctada margaritifera or black lip oyster that grows wild on coral in the lagoon.

    It?s the beautiful colors of this shell that give the pearls their impressive range of beautiful colors. To make pearls, oysters are first grown from spat, raised untill they are about the size of a human palm.

    Then, a small shell nucleus is surgically implanted inside of the oyster -- this small ball will get covered in a thick layer of nacre (mother of pearl) to become a pearl.

    The tiny bit of tissue taken from the mantle (the organ that grows an oyster?s shell) is what determines the color of a pearl. It?s very tricky to cut the tissue just right at the area that will produce the best, most lustrous nacre. Kamoka has run its own experiments to better their graft tissue cutting techniques for over two decades and this (among other things) is why our pearls have such exceptional skin quality and hues.

    While the oysters are growing their pearls, they?re kept in baskets that are hung on lines at the depth where they?ll get the most amount of nutrients.

    The baskets protect them from predators like rays, turtles and trigger fish. This is the human equivalent of getting fed the best possible food in the best possible safe place all day everyday, like a spa.

    At Kamoka the oysters are cleaned regularly of the sponges, anemones and more that grow on their shells and compete for food, by the local fish populations that hang out in shallow water near the shore and coral heads.

    Other farms often remove these critters with pressure hoses that shoot all that alive stuff back into the lagoon and create an unnatural population explosion of those species.

    By letting the fish eat the animals instead, Kamoka stops this from happening and also keeps the local fish fat, happy and friendly.

    The farm is a pretty lively place. This guy, Mec the cat (which translates to ?Dude? in English) keeps the rats away. Looks like he may have had a long night.

    The work it takes to produce pearls is never ending. While diving and the grafting operation are a big part of it there?s also collecting, cleaning and attaching the buoys that hold up the oyster lines, tying lines, maintaining the boats and tools and so on. Plus everyone participates in daily activities like fishing, gardening, cooking and cleaning. With no stores and little in the way of modern conveniences, just surviving is a big job.

    And then there are pearls, green, pink, blue, silver and more. When a pearl is removed from an oyster, another nucleus is inserted in its place and the oyster goes back to its happy place in the lagoon.

    The pearls are sorted, counted and sent off to Papeete, Tahiti where they are cleaned and sold.

    At Kamoka Pearl USA, we make the fine jewelry found on our website using only Kamoka pearls. There is no middle man, so you can know that each and every pearl has been produced with the care and ecological responsibility Kamoka is known for.



    Editor's Note: Kamoka is a favorite among the members of the Pearl Guide forum. Their website tells more about Tahitian pearls and their operations.

    All photographs by Josh Humbert and Celeste Brash.