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  1. #1
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    Default Cook Islands Pearling Developments

    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin Williams View Post
    Hi Steve
    All I know about pearling in the Cook islands, I got from you. But I don't have an overview or the big picture. Can you possibly make a few posts now and then about it?
    Caitlin, the 'Pinctada Maculata' thread has been dormant for some months having promised more news from the Cooks when available. With the pending announcement of a new grading system (supposedly without mention of the term 'orient'!) and return to health of the Manihiki Lagoon following major hurricanes in the 90s and mismanagement in the early 2000s, the timing could be good. It also sadly seems that vestiges of natural poe pipi collection on Penrhyn have vaporized, which will at least result in complete focus on the blacks. The challenge is how to create a niche market distinct to the far larger Tahitian industry, while keeping Japanese and Chinese influence to a minimum.

    I'll start a new thread by repeating this post under cultured pearls, and try to encourage independent contribution in addition to whatever comes my way. As I mentioned towards the end of Pinctada Maculata, I truly am not a paid PR agent for the Cook Islands!

    Here is also a link to the thread featuring my wife's Cook Islands bracelet of giant keshi, as it represents a wide color range typical of Manihiki lagoon.

  2. #2
    Pearl Designer & Collector Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert
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    Hi smetzler,

    Love the Keishi (keshi) bracelet. I do have a love of keishi and those are stunning. Do you have more photos of Cook Island pearls that you could post for us? I have 2 or 3 Cook Island pearls myself but generally we don't see much of them. One seller told me they could be classed as Tahitian but I am not sure about that. I believe some sellers at least on eBay sell them occasionally as Tahitians, so would this be legal.

    Can you tell us more about them, how long they have been cultured, sizes, prices in comparison to similiar pearls, the farms etc. How many of them are produced in a year app. I believe the output is not high.
    Love to hear more this time around.

    Bodecia

  3. #3
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bodecia View Post
    Love to hear more this time around.
    The Cook Islands/Manihiki pearl harvest is not that large, although it does rank second only to tourism in importance to the local economy.This is a start, giving a rough timeline (update: Penryhn lagoon has been almost totally abandoned, leaving Manihiki with the monopoly).
    Pearl World featured the Cook Islands last year (backissues are likely available), with yours truly as featured 'pearl nut', editor Bo Torrey having a soft spot in his heart since a visit there in the mid-90s. As the oyster, P. margaritifera, is the same as in Tahiti, any differences result from water conditions and farming techniques. The range of sizes and colors (and prices) is comparable to Tahiti, CI with a greater tendency towards green in its exotics.

    Chinese and Japanese merchants purchasing the bulk of the harvest are certainly known to offer Cook Islands pearls to the world as Tahitian. There are plenty of challenges ahead?let's hope this thread attracts some local input for the best information.

  4. #4
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    I've noticed Druzy Designs has featured Cook Islands pearls (excellent quality) and hope that Carolyn Ehret will be able to add her experiences in here, or allow me to pass along anything of interest.

    Also, just to keep things moving, I remembered I had these photos which were sent from the 2007 harvest at Tukoa Bay, Manihiki, by Ben Bergman of Bergman & Sons, Rarotonga. This is the harvest where the keshi for the bracelet in the thread linked in the first post above were found.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  5. #5
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    Color, from the 2006 harvest. No need for a plane ticket?these just walked in the door?a cold call from a Manihikian farmer (should try to find that farmer!). I recall quite a sense of excitement from the jeweler at the time.
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    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    Limited edition ring from Bergman & Sons in Avarua.
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  7. #7
    Pearl Collector & Designer Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Sueki's Avatar
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    Hello Steve,
    Lovely pearls.
    Here are some of mine.
    Attached Images Attached Images     

  8. #8
    Administrator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Kevin Canning's Avatar
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    wow, I love that ring - I could even see that as a men's piece.
    Kevin Canning
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  9. #9
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    Sueki

    Precisely what Cook Islands has been lacking here! Where have they been? Any more out there? This appears to be Druzy/Carolyn, and I know she has a very good source?this proves it.

  10. #10
    Pearl Collector & Designer Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Sueki's Avatar
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    Hi Steve,
    Yes, it's from Druzy. And it's far nicer than my photos show. There are beautiful magenta overtones which my camera didn't get.
    I've a Cook Island pendant, too.

  11. #11
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert smetzler's Avatar
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    In the past few days I've had a wonderful exchange with a farmer on Manihiki, each message with a paragraph or two of enlightenment. In a somewhat logical order (although it seems as one coherent essay), I string the individual paragraphs together below. This is as ground-level as you can get, and will hopefully serve to put some beef on the bones of this thread?

    If there is one place to see next time you're up is Penrhyn. In terms of unspoilt beauty, rich culture, fish in abundance long stretching wide sandy beach is your thing, then it's Penrhyn you need to visit. there is no luxury hotels/motels here, but is worth the visit. Then theres Manihiki, like Penrhyn it is unspoilt. Theres nothing to do but eat, sleep, swim fish. We get the odd tourist come through every now then otherwise it is the home of some 200 or so locals.

    Some 5 years ago there were some 260 registered pearl farmers in manihiki. Today there is 76 registered but only a handful still practicing which means a huge potential for someone with foresight, determination and business knowledge to make it a lucrative business.

    Armed with this information I have slowly been building my stock hopefully for good harvest early 2010. I am regularly hearing from other local farmers who get information from other locals preaching doom gloom in this industry. All very positive from where I sit as it means better available farming areas.

    We in Manihiki are lucky in that our reef surrounds the lagoon with a few inlet which circulates fresh seawater. So in spawning season, we retain a lot of the eggs within the lagoon.

    Their (Cook Islands Pearl Authority) latest plan is to introduce one grading system for this industry which will mirror that of Tahiti. This is a long time coming as the local farmers in Manihiki has caused some problems in New Zealand selling crappy pearls at stupid prices over the years. As a result, our Cook Island pearls are seen as inferior to that from Tahiti. In fact, its proven that our black lip shells retain a better colouring than found in Tahiti. This means that the colour of our pearls should in theory be of a better grade.

    I'm trying to work out if its the small golden colored pearl you are most interested in [smetzler: the farmer refers to my fixation on poe pipi] or any gold colored. There is the possibility of producing gold colored pearls in Manihiki so long as we are able to access the shell for its colour. May not be in great numbers but is a possibility. I've experimented with a few of the gold colored shell and have harvested some nice looking pieces.

    The mantle used to produce gold colored pearl is from a black lip shell. In many cases there are gold lip shells within this family so i used mantle from this. The pearls have come out gold/green, light gold. So its not a strong gold colour, very nice all the same. especially when everyone is trying to achieve the peacock green, rose hue etc.
    Clearly a passionate new generation is beginning to take its turn on Manihiki! An auspicious moment for me to have become the 'messenger.'

    Steve

  12. #12
    boo
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    Wonderful news! Thank you so much for sharing, Steve.

  13. #13
    Pearl Maven Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Ditto. I am so glad you are in on it.
    Caitlin

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

  14. #14
    First-graft Pearl Senior Guide Member
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    It makes me want to go there. Those "long unspoilt beaches" sound very tempting after our long Rocky Mountain winter.
    Thanks, Steve, for providing the narrative!
    John

  15. #15
    pattye
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    Thanks, Steve!

    Makes me treasure my Cook Is. pearls even more!

    Pattye
    so many pearls, so little time