Provoked Baroques: A New Tahitian Pearl on the Horizon

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?
Provoked baroque Tahitian pearlsA 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.
Provoked baroque Tahitian pearl 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.

Common keshi compared to this new breed of Tahitian pearl

Common keshi compared to this new breed of Tahitian pearl

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!

A full strand of giant, provoked baroques

A full strand of giant, provoked baroques

Welcoming On The Reel Production & Power of Pearl

Two and a half years ago I took a trip around the world with a film crew, shooting pearl farms in some of the remotest reaches of the world. It was on this trip that our short Tahitian Pearl Documentary was filmed – the same documentary that went on to win the 2013 IFFF Short Film, Documentary award.

The crew that I traveled with, from On the Reel Productions, is still traveling and shooting today, most recently on a pearl farm in Northwest Australia – beyond the outback, where crocodiles outnumber people.

On the Reel Productions is owned by Ahbra Perry and Taylor Higgins, a pair of young filmmakers that have spent the past four years working closely with the pearl industry, visiting a total of 11 different countries. They’ve succeeded in capturing the real story of pearl production and the relationships pearl producers have with local communities and Mother Nature, with boots on the ground and flippers in the water.

Ahbra and Taylor’s film, “Power of Pearl,” is now in full production. If anyone would like to be a part of this film, sponsor information can be found here.

I’ve also invited Ahbra to do a short series of guest posts on our blog, detailing a day in the life of a pearl farming crew, as told by her experience in Australia. I hope everyone enjoys her story.

Getting a Real Pearl Education

Getting a Real Pearl Education

As this blog progresses, there are several educational topics that I plan to explore.  Topics, such as the grain-of-sand myth and the art of pearl culturing are high on my list. But to cover every possible topic related to pearls would take much more than a simple blog – the information could fill a number of different texts.

I’ve been asked many times over the years what pearl books or resources do I recommend for someone who wants to have a serious pearl education. The following are some of my best recommendations.
A decade ago, I started writing content for this website and added a pearl discussion forum. The Internet was filled with misinformation and no single educational authority existed. Today, Pearl-Guide is the largest pearl-information source in the world with nearly 100,000 pages of pearl-related content and nearly 4,000 active members. The membership is comprised of pearl lovers, collectors, farmers, producers, processors, importers, exports, wholesalers, retailers … the list goes on. It’s difficult to pose a question on that hasn’t already been answered., The World's Largest Pearl Information Source

Pearls by Elizabeth Strack
Pearls is likely the most comprehensive and relatively up to date book available today. To pearl experts and collectors, this book is the published authority.

The Book of the Pearl by George Kunz and Charles Stevenson
The book was first published in 1908, but was as comprehensive as Strack’s book was of the era.

Pearls by Hubert Bari
This book is the second written by Hubert Bari that I’ve read and appreciated. His first was a thorough account of the conch pearl business with amazing photographs. This second book is more of a general pearl-educational book, but is very well-written and contains a lot of magnificent photography.


Pearls and Pearling Life by Edwin Streeter
If you find the desire to immerse yourself into the life onboard a pearling lugger of the 1800’s, this book will do it. Originally published in 1886, this book was owned mostly by collectors. In 2006, Hesperian Press published it once again.

Pearl Buying Guide by Renee Newman
The guide is a good book for those wanting to learn enough to make an educated buying decision, but doesn’t delve very deep into the history and market of the gem.

The Pearl Oyster by Paul Southgate and John Lucas
Is pearl farming in your future? If so, you’ll want to read book. If you’re able to make it through all 16 chapters, you will know far more than most about pearl oyster biology.

GIA Graduate Pearls Program
The Pearls course was written by a close friend and mentor of mine, Mr. Doug Fiske, who recently retired from GIA’s course writing department. I had the pleasure of traveling to China with Doug to do research for this course. Sadly, Doug retired before the course was finished and the editing, as well as the writing of captions for photos, was left in hands not nearly as capable or experienced. Overall, the course is worth taking. But it definitely could have been better.

Looking over my bookshelf, there are at least a dozen other books that I’ve found to be worthwhile reads over the years, including an old Xerox copy of the 91-page report on Pearl Cultured in Japan written for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. If anyone would care for a few more recommendations, feel free to email me.