Conch Pearl Farning


New Member
Apr 15, 2012
Does anyone know of any Conch Pearl Farms, have searched online and the information is limited, some saying it can not be done, others saying it can.

Hi Dean,

They are culturing conch pearls. I was at the conference in Tucson when Hector was presenting them. For the most part, they are small and very in quality. I've yet to see them on the market yet, someone correct me if you have seen them. As far as I know the first generation of pearls produced will have a small void in the center, and apparently the pearl sac will produce another pearl after the first one has been extracted. As far as gemmologically separating them, I dont believe its possible without advanced labratory equipment. Even then I'm not sure if they can separate the two.
Hi Dean and Derek,
Identifying these little guys as cultured won't take much at all, just a basic x-ray machine will do the job. Natural pearls will have a very small center typically whereas cultured will have larger ones whether they be tissue nucleated or bead nucleated (like in the "second generation" you spoke of). Interesting stuff without a doubt!
A couple of years ago, I personally advised all of my natural pearl clients to have their conch pearls certified with GIA or another lab, so that they get the date and authenticity of the pearl on file... just in case these cultured conch pearls flood the market one day..
Hector said that the company that licensed the proprietary process was planning to start production this spring. Cultured pearls would take some time to grow before they can be harvested and sold. The marketing should be very interesting. :)
I bet there was a similar discussion as this going down when the first pearls were being cultured in Japan.

There wasn't much worry at the top end of the business due to of the ease of detection of the nucleus, even with the earliest X-Ray technology.

But here is one infamous pearler's commentary upon reflecting that quality cultured pearls might someday be produced without a bead (a modern reality with SS pearls, and of course CFW):

When that day comes, there will be no difference between the cultured pearl and the natural that is not to the advantage of the former. Shall I then?if I still exist?have become reconciled to the new order? I doubt it. There would undoubtedly occur in me one of those protracted and consuming inward struggles wherein reason armed with logic, the spirit of progress, and modernity, stand ranged against tradition, loyalty and romance.

In the end, no doubt, romance would win the day. For the last time I should gather around me my precious natural beauties that no one would buy. From their midst I would select a few of the fairest and dissolve them in vinegar. With all the recklessness of Egypt?s queen I would then swallow the no longer costly brew in one long delirious gulp, but not without first pouring a generous and despairing libation to Venus Margaretifera. And then? Then the moment would have arrived for me to erase the word "pearl" from all the books on my shelves and die.

Louis Kornitzer, The Pearl Trader, 1937.
Well...drinking vinegar is a kind of desperate act...
Nice unearthing Steve. :)
I get the romance and tradition of natural pearls. I don't mean to alienate anyone with the following as I have some very dear friends that deal in them but what I take issue with is the all the animals that necessarily die in procuring them.
Last edited:

No denying what happened to the legendary oyster beds following the invention of air-supply diving gear. Perhaps the true impetus that drove Mikimoto and the rest was not to undercut natural pearls, but simply to assure that something resembling an oyster pearl would continue to exist?

On the other hand, Conch pearls and Abalone pearls, two of the most expensive, are byproducts of the seafood industry and their harvests are regulated for sustainability.

Haliotus Iris (New Zealand Abalone) and Strombus Gigas (Queen Conch) harvests are currently monopolized by a less than a handful of pearl traders who effectively dictate rarity (and price) through stockpiling, much like DeBeers and diamonds. The most likely result of culturing conchs is that the stockpiles of naturals will be accessed as necessary to drive the fledgling farms out of business. Cultureds will be worthless and naturals far less?certified or not.

I guess that will be good for the consumer, but investor beware?

P.S.: Not so romantic, either!
Last edited:
Smetzler, I must add that there does seem to be a nearly exact ratio of sheisty and dishonest people in the natural conch pearl business as there are in the diamond trade, although the conch pearl business as it stands today involves barely a fraction of the total population of people in control of world wide diamond pricing..... But considering that MOST of the world has never even heard of a conch pearl.. I think it much more likely that finding funding to run an ad campaign akin to "diamonds are forever" will definetly be a much bigger hurdle for cultured conch pearl producers in the future. Even with a modest budget, convincing people they want a cultured version of something they have never heard of will require some very clever jingle writers. Even if those very few dealers were to "flood" the market, they would still have a very hard time selling the majority of their pearls as currently it is really only the best of the best pearls that have a chance of moving quickly.. And as you ofcourse would well know there are a hundred mediocre conch pearls before there is a show stopper.
Maybe they can get Debeers to help, why not ...they convinced the world that DIAMONDS are rare!
I wish these farmers the best, and am happy to be alive during this slow transition, so one day I can say... "I remember the days before cultured conch pearls" .. "wow, grandma... You're OLD"

Thanks for the PEARL TRADER quote, That was a wonderful reminder of the essence of a true and stubborn lover of real pearls.

My rather provocative post did deserve perspective, and you have provided it!
Wow thanks Steve, I thought I was going a bit deep... He he we all have to be careful what we say about Debeers.. They have ears everywhere!
The natural pearl business can be a very extreme world, one full of pure wonder and severe disappointment.. At every level of the trade.
It is not easy, this I know. So may you always have customers who understand your passion and continue to buy true real natural pearls.. No matter what else they have seen.
Thanks you two for your thoughtful mind expanding posts. Steve, I didn't know that conch pearls were harvested sustainably. I assumed they were like the P. margaritiferas that have been decimated where ever they existed. I guess the primary difference is that the shell of the black lips are so prized (for buttons and inlay) and conchs not so much. Not sure why haliotus pearls missed my thinking. Maybe too much diving related oxygen starvation to my brain. :p
Conch pearls are actually included in the controlled export of all products "bi-products" or not that come from any subspecies of conch. In order to legally import them (or export them from their native habitat).. one has to apply for certification (C.I.T.E.S) because they are considered worldwide to be an endangered species. The specifics of this law in regards to import/export seem to be very different from one country to the next. I have done this.. it is not a small endeavor. I even have friends who deal in crafts from Asia, and have run into huge snarls with Fish and Game in the U.S. trying to import bracelets made of conch shells. Working to legally import conch pearls and legally export conch pearls to the countries of the buyers is a HUGE amount of paperwork... many dealers do not bother with this. I wonder how Fish and Game (or conch pearl farmers) will deal with this when there is a batch of cultured conch pearls ready for sale to other countries?
As a longtime dealer in a controlled substance (WINE!), we know there are two edges to the regulatory sword. The greater the barriers to business the greater the exclusivity for those with the wherewithal to jump through all the hoops and work the angles.

I can imagine that cultured conchs will give the Fish and Wildlife folks some challenges.

Regarding sustainability, one need look no further than the continuing popularity of conch fritters and conch chowder on regional menus.
Regarding sustainability, one need look no further than the continuing popularity of conch fritters and conch chowder on regional menus.

There is value in the meat, I suppose. Something would have to offest the production cost.

Can you imagine how expensive any saltwater pearl would be if you had to physically feed the oyster every day?

That's why we rarely see cultured abalone pearls.
I saw a documentary on conch shells years ago and I'm sure they pointed out that if the shell hits you with its barb it can kill a human.

If this is true, can you imagine the insurance costs for covering workers.

It was pretty cool to see the conch shell stun the fish before it ate it though.