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  1. #1

    Default GIA Alumni Pearl Tour - Paspaley Pearls

    Here is the last of my three-part trip diary from the GIA Pearl Tour - Paspaley Pearls. I have to post it in sections, so read on...

    Having left Christchurch in the cold rain, we were ready to get back to warm weather. Darwin, Australia is definitely a warm place. As part of group 1, we got up early the first day to take the Grumman Mallard seaplane to Paspaley?s sea-based operations. As you can see in the photo from the bus, we had to get going before dawn.
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    I love seaplanes. The Grumman Mallard was first built in 1946 and ended production in 1951. Paspaley?s Mallards are refitted with modern turboprop engines and are lovingly maintained.
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    We covered a lot of land on our way to the Paspaley III. The view from the cabin was awesome. Earplugs were a requirement, one of the only drawbacks of the Mallard experience.
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    The turboprop engines are extremely powerful and unlike jets, it?s reassuring to be able to see them in motion.
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    For many of the group, this was their first water landing. There?s nothing like the moment when the water rises in waves over the windows.
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    Last edited by GemGeek; 09-15-2007 at 03:19 AM.

  2. #2


    And here is the beautiful Paspaley III in full harvest operation. Waterproof shoes were a requirement and indeed, we got our feet and ankles wet repeatedly while observing the harvesting operation.

    Grafters were removing the first growth pearls and if they were good pearls, and the oyster was in good condition, a second bead was inserted and the oyster was returned for another two years.

    Otherwise, the pearl meat was harvested immediately and the shells went on for commercial processing.

    Jeremy was in the group where they were harvesting second-growth pearls. He should have some big pearl photos to come.
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    Richard, our host, opened two oysters and let a couple of us squeeze out the pearl. I felt like a midwife giving birth. It?s amazing how beautiful they are right from the shell. Here is the result.
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    Roger trimmed the pearl meat and gave us all a bite ? fresh oyster sashimi, which was very sweet.

    Then we went upstairs to see the morning?s harvest of pearls. Talk about heaven ? we could literally play with pearls! This is how they look with zero cleaning or processing. Amazing!
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    Given a chance to play, one side of the table became impromptu pearl graders. Notice the neat groups of different colors.
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  3. #3


    The other side of the table experimented, measured, improvised fashion photos and even created art. Richard scrubbed these pearls with salt so we could get a better idea of what the finished product would look like.
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    That?s a big first-growth pearl!
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    Mona and Betty Sue improvised a glamour photo op.
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    And Russell made a fish with a golden eye. Notice the air bubbles trickling upward.
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  4. #4


    The search for the perfect pearl had several contenders, but this was a favorite.
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    Next, we take a long boat ride to Kuri Bay, the site of the first land-based pearling operations in the area. Name:  kuri bay.JPG
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    They have rules.
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    And they have pets, too. This one is a python named Monty.
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    We are treated to a fabulous lunch. Carl has some major competition as the chef pulled out all the stops for our visit. Here is the table we sat at. Nice view!
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  5. #5


    Kuri Bay looks like it?s a great place to live and work.
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    They even have a phone booth.
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    And you can?t beat the view.
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    When it was time to go, they fed their pet sharks with kitchen scraps on the way to the seaplane, which came to meet us in Kuri Bay.
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  6. #6


    The next day we were taken by bus to see Paspaley?s engineering operations back in Darwin.
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    This place is big.
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    Here is one of their special working boats being built. Look at those welds! They carry the washing and x-ray equipment.
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    We are shown the automatic oyster washing machine. You can see the orange basket being drawn across the top. The cover is closed and jets of pressurized water clean the oysters as they pass through the machine.
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    They use a specially made x-ray setup to check the pearl nacre growth, again, by drawing the baskets across the table.
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    Last edited by GemGeek; 09-14-2007 at 04:08 PM.

  7. #7
    Pearl Knotting & Wire Expert Senior Pearl Expert knotty panda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Blaire: I am so HAPPY YOU GOT TO GO!!!!! What a wonderful experience! Once in a lifetime for us mortals. Pearl people are very lucky to have such exotic places to live and interesting work to do. I'm just so happy for you! And I love the sharing. (Look at the earth's reflection in the prop's cap in the 3rd photo down.)
    Last edited by knotty panda; 09-14-2007 at 03:36 AM.
    Pretty Panda pic by nlerner on her U.S. excursion last year, San Diego Zoo.[/SIZE][/SIZE]

  8. #8


    We check out the tool room. That?s the biggest Crescent Wrench I?ve ever seen!
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    This machine tightens knots as part of the process of attaching buoys to the long lines that suspend the oysters in the bay.
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    The buoys then get replacement ropes and are ready to go.
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    Enough of this technical stuff ? show us the pearls! But wait, even after we trek to the Paspaley Pearl offices, we have to get step-by-step instruction.

    After getting the lowdown on the polishing process, we can hardly be restrained. First they are tumbled.
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    Then they are graded and sent for polishing.
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  9. #9


    If necessary, they are drilled here. For a drill-through, they drill halfway, then turn the pearl to drill to the center from the other side. That prevents damage at the drill hole.
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    Next stop, the knotting station. They have a special process that makes the knots virtually invisible. See what I mean on these ?tringles? triangular pearls.
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    Even in the close-up they are almost non-existent. Excuse me while I mop my brow ? the luster is getting to me!
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    I?ll be honest, at this point, I had to cut out a lot of photos of people, because I didn't have time to ask for permission. So you are going to get some bonus pearl photos at the end.

    Let the pearls speak for themselves!

    These are Keshi pearls.
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    Silver Baroques
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    Last edited by GemGeek; 09-15-2007 at 03:24 AM. Reason: Correction

  10. #10


    Close-up of silver baroques...
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    Here?s a tub of pearls.
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    And mixed colors.
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    You are getting sleepy, very sleepy. You are getting out your wallet?
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    Once you hold them, it?s hard to put them down.
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  11. #11


    Go ahead, join us!
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    And here is the prize pearl, the biggest and best ? not to be sold.

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    Okay, here comes the unplanned gallery...

    Baroque Pair
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    Enormous Baroque
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  12. #12


    The Dream Button.

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    A fine pair. I wouldn't mind storing them for Paspaley!

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    As far as I'm concerned, this shape is terrific.
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    They don't get many goldens.
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    Here are grading samples.
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  13. #13


    This is one killer baroque.
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    Betty Flintstone would love earrings like this.
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    My kind of necklace.
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    Here are some trays of specials.
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  14. #14


    And the last pearls...

    Sort of a top-drop.
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    They tell me these are snowmen!
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    This is a really big baroque - yes, it's a different one.
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    Tringle earring set.
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    And last, but not least, an almost transparent baroque drop.
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    Paspaley?s operations were intelligently executed and they ran as smooth as silk. And they let us play with their pearls. What more could we want?

    On that note, I will end my photographic story of our wonderful pearl journey. We had an incredible end-of-tour dinner and swapped business cards ?til we dropped. It was a terrific group of people and I will miss having fun with them.

    Endless thanks to Gemological Institute of America, Robert Wan - Tahiti, Eyris Blue Pearl Company and Paspaley Pearls. You are all AAA in my book!

    Until next year?

  15. #15


    Quote Originally Posted by knotty panda
    Blaire: I am so HAPPY YOU GOT TO GO!!!!! What a wonderful experience! Once in a lifetime for us mortals. Pearl people are very lucky to have such exotic places to live and interesting work to do. I'm just so happy for you! And I love the sharing. (Look at the earth's reflection in the prop's cap in the 3rd photo down.)
    I noticed the reflection on the propeller cap when I was sizing the photo and it reminded me of the surface of a pearl. See? Even their airplanes are beautiful.

    I'm glad that you're enjoying it. Just wait until Jeremy posts his photos. And he should have some very interesting commentary.