A day in the Life on a Pearl Farm, part two

… continued from September 4th

A Day in the Life
My experience on a South Sea pearl farm in Australia
By Ahbra Perry of ‘On the Reel Productions.’

After the quick break the Captain comes down and stirs everyone up.  The dive boats will hopefully return with a big catch of wild shell, so everyone must prepare the deck to receive it.  Tables are set up, pumps turned on, buckets are out, and nets are up.  In the blink of an eye, the crew dons goggles and gloves, each with a butcher knife in hand.

The crew having fun listening to Bon Jovi while cleaning shell on deck

With a loud bang, the first dive boat slams into the side of the Trident Aurora.   The dinghy is now docked, but still gets thrown around.  The sea became rougher as the sun rose.  Its captain has a difficult time lifting the nets full of shell up to the Trident’s deck.

The shells are dumped onto the table, sorted, and quickly make their way down an assembly line.  The deckhands use their knives to carefully scrape off barnacles and other organisms that are growing on the wild creatures.  The younger oysters are put into nets and returned to the water to mature, while others are coaxed open, pegged to keep them open, and ready to be nucleated by a technician.  This all happens in a mere forty minutes.  Next, everything is cleaned up and the deckhands head to breakfast.

The crew sits to enjoy a bit of “brecky”

Breakfast, like every meal, is a frenzy.  The kitchen and mess area are combined, and definitely nothing spectacular; the Trident is a much older boat, and was only converted to a pearling vessel 15 or 20 years ago.  However, every aspect of the boat has a certain aged charm.  There are barrels of fruit, hot food, cold cereals, and a definite shortage of spoons.  A variety of international sauces and spices adorn every table.  The iconic Australian Vegemite (the most horrific condiment known to man, and so loved by Australian children) sits neglected in the corner, its appearance lost on this crowd of foreigners.  The chef, Francesco, yells and jokes around with the crew.  He is from Sicily, and like me, still hasn’t fully developed his sea legs.  Francesco is the hub of entertainment.  He is here to enjoy life, find adventure and continually makes sure that everyone is happy.  I learned a lot from our interactions, namely that being Italian does not make one a great chef, nor even a good cook.  However, Francesco’s personality and passion for life brings a lot of morale to this floating community, as does the fact that there will always be cereal and milk.

Dan has no apprehensions toward his burnt hot dogs and canned spaghetti omelet

Breakfast is quick and then it’s back to the deck to take on the next tasks.  It’s a harvesting day, so the technicians are set up in a room that opens outward to the deck.  The Trident does not boast the sterile and well-lit operating room one might imagine, nor even a stable ground for the precise and intricate procedure that the technicians perform.

Six technicians sit at what seem to be oversized elementary school desks in a semicircle facing the walls.  The middle of the room is stacked high with crates of live oyster patiently awaiting their operation.  Each technician has a variety of Tupperware on his or her desk: three contain different sized nuclei, one holds tools, one holds pearls, and the last contains very tiny crabs.  Although I’ve spent three years working on this film, and am very familiar with the seeding process, nowhere else had I seen crustacean assistance- I figured it could be a seaman’s version of a Chia Pet.

Tiny crabs removed from the wild-caught shell during first graft operation

I moved in closer to one of the Japanese technicians to ask him about his crab collection.  His pearl bucket is piled high with 12-16mm high luster White South Sea pearls.  He finishes harvesting another perfectly round and gleaming pearl, adds it to his pile, inserts a larger nuclei into the oyster, and spins around to enlighten me.

Well, it turns out that this ‘pile o’ crab’ is a very common thing.  Unlike pearl farms with hatcheries, Australian pearl farms collect wild shell.  It is typical in the wild for a small crab to live inside and grow with the oyster.  They thrive off of each other, maintaining a symbiotic relationship.  This technician prefers to remove the crab for better pearl growth, but other techs like to leave them in.  As we were talking, two of the overhead lights flickered out and wind began to pick up, heavily swaying the boat.

To be continued on September 13th …

A day in the Life on a Pearl Farm, part one

A Day in the Life
My experience on a South Sea pearl farm in Australia
By Ahbra Perry of ‘On the Reel Productions.’

The iPhone alarm rings faintly; even Siri is still half asleep.  There is rustling in the hallway.  Someone must be as confused as I am.  Hunched awkwardly in my cubbyhole of a bed, I pull open the porthole curtain to reveal dense blackness.  I begin to worry.  Maybe the ship began taking on water as I slept and we are now rapidly sinking, plunging deep below the surface of the ocean to a certain death, or worse- it’s really still that dark outside.  I grab my toothbrush, fall out of my person-pantry (ladders are of little use at this time of the morning) and stumble into the hallway.

I make my way up to the deck like a drunken pinball, banging into the opposite side of the wall with every step.  I throw my body against a heavy door and tumble onto the main deck where the harsh cold of sea air quickly gnaws at my core.  My earlier fears are quickly realized.  It’s 4:30 in the morning, totally dark outside (the sun isn’t even thinking about coming up for at least another hour), and everyone is already working.

Pearl farm life is strenuous, but for those who toil forward, rising at ungodly hours, it can be some of the most inspiring and rewarding work one can do.  As on any farm, there is the constant challenge of creating and maintaining a delicate balance with Mother Nature.  The pearl farmer is unavoidably at her mercy.

Each farm that I have visited in the past three years has shown me an occupation that is rich in adventure, and in beauty.

The requirements for a perfect site place these farms in pristine and picturesque environments in some of the most remote reaches of the world.  Success in these regions relies heavily on the support of the communities built and sustained by these farms and is uniquely shaped by the indigenous cultures of the area.

Saltwater pearl farming has the potential to create positive impact on all fronts- we would be hard-pressed to find another industry to say the same for.

My film crew’s brief time documenting the life aboard the ships of an Australian South Sea pearl farm provided an experience marked by escapades that only pearl farming could offer.

The Trident Aurora serves as the command center for the Clipper Pearl Farm, and raises her anchor around 4 am.  The divers will hit the water at first light, so all equipment must be prepared, tested, and properly functioning before dawn.  Mistakes are not an option sixty feet below sea level.

Clipper Pearl’s and Autore’s mothership the Trident Aurora

Clipper Pearl’s and Autore’s mothership the Trident Aurora

Immediately after the dive boats are dispatched, preparation for their return is allegedly to begin.  In reality, all deck hands immediately gather around the “WC” – not a toilet, but instead a closet containing instant coffee, Milo (a vitamin-enriched chocolate powder), and hot water.  Everyone drags on rollies – hand rolled cigarettes, the bulk of whose tobacco tends to be taken by the wind.  If the United Nations had a locker room, the chatter would sound something like these deckhands.  The majority of them are young backpackers.  Traveling the world, they are likely in need of a paycheck to afford their next destination.  Greeks, Brits, a Scott, a Norwegian, Germans, Spaniards, French, and of course those from Australia and neighboring New Zealand all confer over a cup of coffee (and quite literally- I’m pretty sure there is really only one mug for ten people).  Being in such tight quarters, they will get close quickly.  Some have already been on a few trips out to sea together, while the rest are “real fresh for the season,” as one of the Kiwis tells me.

To be continued on September 9th …

How to Wear 100-inch Pearl Ropes

The girls are having lots of fun wearing the 100-inch ropes in the office. I too have been wearing the 5.5-6 mm rope for few days. I was pleasantly surprised that the 100 inch does not weigh me down or get in my way of stringing. We’re enjoying this monthly special so much and decided to share some of our styling ideas!


Our lovely Chenai, Director of Operations, is looking professional in the 6.5-7 mm rope. The first style is the multi-layer messy choker look. This style is perfect for the office since the long length will not be bothersome while she works.

Here is how to create this look:

Fold the rope in half and wrap the pearls around your neck two times.

Cut a ribbon of your choice (about 12 inches) and loop the ribbon as shown.

Tie the ribbon into a bow.

Move the bow toward the back of your neck.

The second look for Chenai is the simple knot. This knot looks a lot richer using the rope as double necklace before the knot is tied. It is a simple, elegant look for the office.

Wear the rope as double necklace.

Tie a knot at the center.

Sweet and hardworking Kim is looking fabulous in her dress with classic style of 5.5-6 mm rope.


When you want to keep this layered look in place the pearl clip comes in handy.
Here is how the pearl clip looks at the back:

Pearl clip

Last but not least our comical Allison (who makes us laugh and have a good time in the vault) looks amazing in the 7.5-8 mm rope in jeans. Who said you can’t be casual wearing a pearl rope? The bright white pearls add instant pizzazz to the outfit!

Behind the Scenes: The Great Gatsby Photo Shoot

The Gatsby Photo Shoot with PearlsYou may recall Jeremy’s post last week about The Great Gatsby inspired pieces that he and Hisano have been working on for an upcoming promotion in June. To showcase some of the pieces (freshwater ropes and tassels), we’ve dressed a model up in fashions inspired by the Great Jazz Era.

Enjoy the little “behind the scenes” preview, and we hope you enjoy the finished, chosen photo in  just a few days!

The Great Gatsby Photo Shoot

The Lights are On!

After nearly two full days of working without power, phones or Internet, we are happy to announce that power has been restored to our block!

We had to come up with some very innovative ways to deal with the power outage this week. The week prior to Mothers Day is one of the busiest of the year, so we couldn’t just sit back and wait for the lights to come back on. Some team members worked from home while Kinkos became one of our best friends. The conference room with floor-to-ceiling windows became pearl matching central and we used flashlights and lanterns in the vault!