Women in Pearl Farming


PG Forum Admin
Aug 26, 2005
I found this article just last week about a female pearl farmer in Tonga. I found it very interesting...and women have made a tremendous impact in pearl farming since the days of Mikimoto, but we seldom hear of these amazing women.
So, my intention is that we could all pool in and find stories of female pearl farmers...the "mother of pearls" of this world!

So, for this first entry I would like to contribute this article that appeared on "The Fish Site", under "Women in Aquaculture", about a "Black Winged Pearl Oyster" (Pteria penguin) farmer by the name of Naua Lakai.
naua-lakai-winged-pearl-oyster-3.jpg?profile=article-float.png - Naua Lakai, pearl farmer from Tonga

Naua Lakai lives on Vava’u, one of the 36 inhabited islands of Tonga. She dropped out of teachers’ college when she became a mother and is now one of the most successful pearl farmers on her island.

If you want to read this article, please click here.
That is a very interesting article, and inspiring, as well. Thank you so much for posting - I look forward to learning more about women pearl farmers!
Well, I'll call our attention to Leanne Hunter, of J. Hunter Pearls in Fiji :) As well as our own Celeste Brash of Kamoka Pearls!
Absolutely! I agree! We should look for articles about them to share here CathyKeshi ...videos, anything where we can read and learn more about our "Mother of Pearls"...there is also Gina Lattendresse, Maria Haws, and there has got to be more! The bond between women and pearls is unique!
Here is a video about "Natural American Pearls" from the DANAT Institute with Gina Lattendresse:
She is farming Pteria penguin in Tonga - the original mabé pearls!

Exactly! If I remember correctly, pearl oysters were introduced into Tonga and -after decades- they are finally growing their industry.
Not sure if this counts as these women were not farm owners but when I visited a South Sea pearl farm on a remote island in Indonesia (pop around 500) four of the female staff were being trained as grafters. Which is a world-wide transferable skill usually restricted to Japanese men.
Wouldn't they have native Pinctada margaritifera there? I would think they would have a natural population of typica like Fiji.
I'd have to look around in my notes, but I remember (I could be wrong, of course) that they had no pearl oyster resources and these were introduced to Tonga to initiate pearl farming.
Not sure if this counts as these women were not farm owners but when I visited a South Sea pearl farm on a remote island in Indonesia (pop around 500) four of the female staff were being trained as grafters. Which is a world-wide transferable skill usually restricted to Japanese men.

Yes, we always hear of the owners...not of the normal, regular people that work at a farm and this is where women are plentiful: all the female pearl technicians & laborers. But it is rare to hear their stories...yet they are there, an intrinsic part of pearl farming.
Well, I count those women ... from Fiji to French Polynesia to the women in that Jewelmer film ... so hard working, and proud to produce such beauty. I'd add in the jewelers, the designers; admittedly that's reaching this topic off track, but ... I thank every single one.
The workforce on a vietnamese pearl farm I visited (around 300) was almost exclusively female. Including grafters, harvesters and sorters.(akoya pearls shells are so thin someone with strong fingernails could probably open one)
Japan has always had women as an integral part of their pearl farming operations. At the onset of Mikimoto's work...I don't think he could have managed without his wife! Ume was as much a co-creator of the cultured pearl (I am sure) as Mikimoto was.
Then the beautiful Ama divers and finally the "bead pushers", those amazing pearl seeding technicians.

Well, just last week I found this article that mentions a female pearl farmer by the name of Ruriko Sakaguchi. An excerpt from the article follows:

Ruriko Sakaguchi, who has been operating the Sakaguchi Pearl Farm on Ago Bay with her parents for 22 years now, said that there are around three to four pearl oyster farmers in Mie Prefecture. Several of them cultivate their own unique pearl oysters and utilise the best of these for their pearl farms.
2_1621233595_1.jpg - Pearl Farming in Ise-Shima, Japan
Another Japanese woman in the pearl industry! Her name is Maiko Makito and her company is "Pearl Falco".
She is a jeweler and inherited the company from her father 36 years ago, moved to Singapore and opened up a store, initiated an educational program on pearls, as well as an annual pearl jewelry contest.
You can read the rest of the article by clicking here!
How could we ever forget the Amazing Ama Divers?!?!?!? These women -young and old- from Japan who were responsable for some of the important artisanal fisheries in Japan, such as seaweeds, sea urchins, abalone and pearl oysters? They were also involved in the early stages of pearl farming and were "the face" of Japanese pearl farming for many of us that grew watching "pearl diving shows".

I happened to find an article HERE that had some beautiful B&W photos authored by Yoshiyuki Iwase.

I chose one to feature here, but please head over to the article to see more!.
Women's involvement in pearl farming is seen as beneficial for the industry as a whole. Women often bring a unique perspective and set of skills to the table, such as attention to detail, patience, and a focus on quality. This can help improve the overall quality of the pearls and the industry's reputation.

Despite these positive trends, women in pearl farming still face several challenges. Women may face cultural or societal barriers that prevent them from entering the industry or advancing in their careers. Additionally, safety concerns may be related to diving and working in remote areas.