Adventures in Pearl Farming - The Unexpected

Douglas McLaurin of Perlas del Mar de Cortez pearl farm in Mexico will be a regular contributor with his column "Adventures in Pearl Farming".

The Unexpected

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June and July are very special months here at our small pearl farm in the Gulf of California: the water is warm and inviting, the waters clear up and it is also the time to reap the harvest of pearls. After years of culturing, our precious little gems are ready to come out of their watery environment and into Life.

Last June -while I was at the Sustainable Pearls forum in Hong Kong- I received a message from my friend and associate Enrique Arizmendi: an unexpected pearl had appeared. --And we are used to the "unexpected", after all our Cortez Pearls are very unique, but what made this purple baroque pearl so unexpected is its sheer size of 17 mm!

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Wow! But isn't it just an average size really? I mean, many South Sea Pearls easily outsize it. The answer to this question would be a very plain Yes. There are indeed many larger pearls, but what makes this one unique is that it comes from a Rainbow Lip Pearl oyster (Pteria sterna).

And the thing is that Rainbow Lips are medium sized oysters (10-12 cm in diameter at harvest size) and they have these very small pearl sacs that make pearls larger than 10 mm quite a feat! Thus, this pearl is truly extraordinary: our average size pearls are 8.5 mm big with the largest pearl we had obtained before was a 14 mm baroque "gas giant" pearl (meaning hollow, a pearl filled with gas and liquids) but this one is solid and heavy.

Another bit of information: we cannot reseed these unique oysters. They have a lifespan of 5-6 years, so most would die before yielding a second pearl. So, obtaining pearls larger than 12 mm in this species is quite a feat.

The other interesting thing is that the bead used to grow this particular pearl was not even a large one! yes, we keep track of the pearl nuclei sizes we use every day of the seeding season and we can track this information until harvest time and the largest size of bead I used that day was 2.9 bu or less than 10 mm! So this unique gem is solid pearl almost to its very core!

So I guess that it boils down to a simple question: Why did this pearl grow so big? Impossible to know. I would need to break the pearl apart to understand it better, but this won't happen.

I guess that in the end, all that matters is that we should be humble in our dealings with Nature: she has this great way of reminding us that she is more than meets the eye, and that what seems impossible is simply just waiting to happen! of course, when she feels it is time to let you know, she can do this and much more.
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