So when we were in Halong Bay, the tour included a stop at a floating fishing village. One of the village’s main source of income is pearl farming for a big Japanese pearl company. I thought you might like to see how pearls are “grown.”
These two ladies demonstrated for us how they take oysters that are about a year old and implant a “bead” into their gonad. The bead is a small piece of mother-of-pearl. They wrap the bead with a thin strip of mantle tissue from a donor oyster–that is the red/pink stuff.
Then they slice open the oyster and stick in it with tweezers. The bead is the irritant around which the pearl will develop — the bead, by the way, can be detected by x-rays.
The oysters are then loaded into netted boxes and hung off the sides of their floating homes for at least three more years. After all that time has passed, they then open up each oyster and most of the time there will be a pearl! They sell some of their pearls right at the village for an incredibly low price — the Japanese girls on our boat went nuts!
So two more things about pearls:
- It always gets me that Jackie’s famous pearls were fake.
- Just so you know, almost all the pearls you buy are cultured… it’s not like with diamonds where there are ‘real’ ones and ‘fake’ ones. Although you can see the implanted bead with an x-ray, whereas ironically it’s very difficult to tell a scientific diamond from a real one. Even Mikimoto cultures their pearls–what makes them famous is that they do it themselves and their variety of Japanese Akoya oysters is quite famous. They were also the first to come up with the culturing method back in 1893 when the Japanese pearl market was in crisis because they had harvested all the pearls to be found in local waters.
I can’t resist showing you a few more pictures of how idyllic their little village is. It houses over 2,000 people! Can you imagine your whole family living in one little floating room?!
And isn’t that little tyke cute?! The children are educated through elementary school here at the village, but then must go to the city for the rest of their schooling. They rarely return to the village.