I love Tahitian pearls. More specifically, I love the dark exotic colors of Tahitian pearls – the colors found almost exclusively in smaller size ranges. Large Tahitian pearls are highly valued, but often lack the color and luster of their smaller counterparts because larger pearls most often come from larger, older pearl oysters. As the oyster ages, it begins to lose the ability to produce fine pearl nacre. But what if there were a way to induce small, young pearl oysters into growing larger pearls?
A company out of Japan by the name of Imai Seikaku has developed a new sort of nucleus that comes in the shape of a small blue pill. This is no ordinary nucleus, but one that is composed of a super-absorbent organic substance which soaks up surrounding liquids and expands. As it expands it begins to “blow out the pearl sac,” as my friend and pearl farmer Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls put it. It essentially induces even a small, young pearl oyster to grow a large pearl sac where an equally large nucleus can be placed.
When harvested, the first graft pearl is free-form in shape and filled with liquid substance, which when drained, leaves a hollow Tahitian pearl. Unlike freshwater soufflé pearls from China, hollow pearls can’t be legally exported from Tahiti so they’re discarded. In their place farmers insert large, baroque nuclei. This second graft results in giant bead-nucleated Provoked Baroques that intentionally look indistinguishable from massive keshi pearls except in one way – they have screaming luster and intensely dark colors. They are even better than traditional keshi and much larger than average keshi.
The technology is still in its infancy and production to date has been very limited. Most pearl wholesalers have yet to hear about this new type of gem let alone offer them. Josh Humbert is one of the few pearl farmers that has been experimenting with the organic, shape-shifting nuclei and believes that there is potential to use the technology to eventually grow large, colorful round pearls. In the meantime, we get to enjoy a new type of pearl!