GIA Pearl Tour - Eyris Blue Pearls - New Zealand



Here is part two of my three part GIA Pearl Tour diary. I'll be posting it in sections, so read on.

We arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand late morning after a fifteen hour flight delay. After taking a vote, we agreed to have lunch and proceed with our activities in whatever way they could be rescheduled. GIA Tour leader Akira Hyatt is my hero. She made it possible to see and do everything we had planned, in spite of the time gap.

We arrived at Roger Beattie’s home which included a small farm and their Eyris Blue Pearl processing operation.

Roger is attempting to revive the endangered local Weka population with breeding pairs on his property. The Weka is a small flightless bird native to New Zealand.
weka weka.JPG

Here Roger is feeding them. What do they eat? Puppy Chow, of course.:)
roger w weka.JPG

On to the processing center, where we were shown samples of B grade pearls cut out of the Paua abalone shells, but unprocessed. You can tell they’ll be colorful when they’re finished.
umprocessed bs.JPG

Roger then showed us the first step - a rough cut mabe pearl.
shell cut.JPG

Last edited by a moderator:
Next, they are roughly rounded.
rough cut.JPG

Then they are glued onto a dop stick for grinding the edges into a true round. Roger shows dop sticks with pearls before and after grinding.

Here Roger shows what the abalone implant looks like from the back. The implant is plucked out and the hollow pearl is filled with resin.

Then abalone shell is selected to cover the back of the filled pearl. These are also polished. The Paua shell is almost as beautiful as the pearl. Okay, not quite, but the backs of the Eyris Blue pearls are lovely. On the jewelry I purchased, they have a serial number engraved into the back of each shell. They’re really precious.
paua backs.JPG

Then the pearls are dopped on the back so the front can be polished. They polish the pearls directly on a polishing wheel.
dopped mabes.JPG

Later, we’ll get a chance to see the finished pearls.

Last edited by a moderator:
The next day we head off on a bus trip to Akaroa to see the abalones in their growing environment. The scenery is breathtaking as Akaroa comes into view.

Roger escorts the first group to the boat. Because there are 27 of us, we have to go in three groups. After a cold boat ride, we arrive at the water-based operation in Akaroa Bay. Here the first bucket of young abalone is brought up for inspection.

And here is what they look like, attached to the side when they aren?t eating their seaweed cocktail.
open bucket.JPG

Roger pops one off to give us a look at the underside. Yes, it?s done with a non-stick spatula!
Paua Spatula.JPG

Because Abalone are hemophiliacs, they have to be handled very carefully. That?s why you?ll never see a whole cultured pearl from a Paua shell. Roger gently pushes back the Abalone to reveal the pearls in progress.
first mabe.JPG

They have an enormous rate of attrition, but they document everything and are are learning. Roger can tell you what bucket a pearl grew in, what day it was first implanted, what day it went in the sea, which location it was in, and how long it was there. He knows who implanted it and who maintained them each week.

Yes, they have to be tended to each week. Abalones are basically big snails. They need their buckets cleaned and a fresh/dried seaweed mixture added so they can get a decent meal. Tahitian pearls, on the other hand, can be left for weeks before cleaning and don?t need feeding.

mabe in shell.JPG
another mabe.JPG

Soon Roger has us back in the harbor and the other two groups get their turn at sea. Roger enthusiastically hoists out as many buckets as it takes for each group to see the good, the bad, and the uncovered.
Roger Beattie in charge

"Forced" to shop while the others take their turns, we make a few purchases of paua shell trinkets and Eyris Blue Pearls.

Lunch in Akaroa harbor is a foodie's delight. Later, when we get back to town, Roger and his wife Nicky host a beautiful dinner party in a private club in Christchurch. I can?t see how this could get any better.

Next Day:

It?s our last day and we?ve managed to squeeze in a lecture at the Blue Pearl Center and do some shopping before visiting the Eyris Blue Pearl Company offices. I purchase a ring.
blaire ring from Eyris blue pearls in New Zealand

To top off a terrific visit, we get to see pearls in the office. We are treated to a demonstration of color sorting and grading. The pearls are initially sorted into blue or green.
basic separation of Eris abalone mabe pearls

Then blue/violet and pink/gold/green are separated out, leaving four color groups.
advanced separation of abalone pearls

After the demonstration, we were allowed to look at their inventory. You?ll now see why I am passionate about these pearls. These Mystiques are A grade pearls that have the conchiolin markings of the Paua shell.
more mystiques eyris pearls

Some abalone pearls showing lines of conchioline

Pear shapes are popular for pendants. The colors are truly remarkable.
fancy pears - eyris blue pearls

Uncut pear shapes from their "specials" tray.
uncut pears.JPG

What?s not to love?
uncut pears 2.JPG

The pearl is a mysterious seductress and this one certainly qualifies!
untrimmed eyris.JPG

And more?
eyris tray.JPG

Roger displays one of his best Paua shells.
Roger with Paua.JPG

And all good things must come to end. But, we are rooting for Eyris Blue Pearl Company to keep getting better at producing more and better pearls so that everyone can know the beauty of the incredible blue pearl. And many thanks to Roger, his family and his staff. They allowed us into their private world so that we could better appreciate the difficulty and rewards of what they do.

We zip over to the airport, headed for Darwin, Austrailia where we'll visit Paspaley Pearls?
Thank you, thank you for the posts and pics! I love these pearls. Your new ring is just beautiful too. I've admired these pearls from afar and I really need to check out their distribution sites in the U.S.
You can find a retailer on their website -
Be warned! They are very rare, so expect a little sticker-shock.:eek:

Also, their website has a lot of great photos. I can't tell you how accomodating and friendly they were. I want to go back to New Zealand soon. Two days was just a tantalizing taste of one of the world's most diverse countries. :)

Hi Blaire
Abalone has been my favorite since I was a wee tyke in Tucson and my next door neighbor brought home a piece of the shell from her vacation in CA. How I wanted it, but had nothing to trade, which she wouldn't do anyway.
Than I found a chunk of my own the next summer. I still have it- somewhere.....

Thanks for the time and care in sharing this tour with us! It will be enjoyed for years!
Thanks Caitlin. I was feeling a wee bit guilty about posting so many photos, but they make it much more interesting than text alone.:)
What a great thread, and LOVE the photos! Thanks for posting!

Hi Blaire,

I enjoyed so much the photographs and reading about your trip. Thank you!:)

Hi Blaire,

beautiful photos and very interesting report. Thank You very much!
Lovely photos of those pearls! I'm glad you had a great time. I think I'm in love *o* ~swoon~...
I love Abalone pearls! There is something so intriguing about the rainbow of colors.

All these images will prove invaluable for my Aquaculture students...I have a Japanese Abalone Culture video, but your photos are better still!
Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you for putting together the pictures and commentary. I'm new here and love seeing the "behind the scenes" work that goes into the pearls. Awesome post!
John is right...many could share a "Behind the Scenes on...." like GemGeek and Jeremy (with his great videos) have done. I know I could do one on Cortez Pearls, Josh could do one on Tahitian Blacks...nice idea!!
Gem Geek,
thanks for taking the time to post all of your beautiful photos from your trip! Your pictures are fantastic, as well as all of your input too!! Much appreciated!! :eek: