A trip to Paradise (and Hong Kong)

My apologies for being a bit late on the Hong Kong pearl report. Shortly after Hisano and I arrived back in Los Angeles I had to leave again to attend my son’s graduation from Delta Flight Attendant Training. We once again have a flight crew member in the family!

Hong Kong was fantastic as it always is, but the best part of the trip was our visit to Paradise – Jewelmer’s pearl farm in Tay Tay, the Philippines. It was my second trip to the farm and while it wasn’t a leisure trip, it certainly felt like it.

We brought a GoPro camera and shot quite a lot of video, including from a helicopter over the farm and underwater where Hisano and I swam a full line as the panel nets were being flipped. Video always takes a lot of time to piece together, so in the meantime here is some eye candy to enjoy!

It requires breathtaking beauty to grow perfect golden pearls

It requires breathtaking beauty to grow perfect golden pearls

Click the image to zoom in and see the actual pearl lines.

Click the image to zoom in and see actual pearl lines.

This is why pearl farmers MUST be environmentalists. This is the purity required to grow pearls.

This is why pearl farmers MUST be environmentalists. This is the purity required to grow pearls.

We took a "Pearl Line Selfie" at 20 meters :)

We took a “Pearl Line Selfie” at 20 meters :)

Each panel filled with pearl oysters is flipped

Each panel filled with pearl oysters is flipped

Somewhat eerie yet so beautiful.

Somewhat eerie yet so beautiful.

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Yes, those are fish - thousands of them.

Yes, those are fish – thousands of them.

It was difficult to leave, and the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong immediately following serene paradise was bit of a adjustment, but there were pearls to be found and only three days to find them. We missed the first two days of the show while in the Philippines.

Apart from the regular shopping list items we did stumble accross some special things! We picked up some insanely colored Edisons including a dark purple strand and matched up a bunch of giant ripple pearls to create a colorful monster.

We also discovered a small Japanese company that had not come to the show before and one we’d never seen in Kobe. They’re niche is very specialized – baroques. In the past I had only been interested in the natural-color silver blue baroques but only because the whites that I’d seen were borderline rejects. The white strands they had were different – lustrous with great colors and visibly thick nacre. They were also big – 9.5-10.0 mm. They didn’t have many of the large strands available but we ended up taking all of them inlcuding their natural-color silver-blues.

To understand the size of these pearls, that center ripple is 18 mm.

To understand the size of these pearls, that center ripple is 18 mm.

Effecting Change, with Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls

Continuing with the video series from the 2014 Pearl-Guide Ruckus in Palos Verdes, here is Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls giving a presentation about his life on a Tahitian pearl farm and about effecting change with sustainable pearl farming.

Pearls and the Environment, by Douglas McLaurin

As promised, here is the first of several videos shot at the 2014 Pearl-Guide Ruckus held in Palos Verdes Estates, California.

Douglas McLaurin gives a fantastic overview of the Mexican pearl industry and specifically what impacts his pearl farm has on the environment.

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

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

… continued from September 13th

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

Down on the deck below, the divers have returned from their last trip of the day and everything is wrapping up.  A suspicious smell wafts up from the kitchen, likely canned spaghetti pie and meat lump.  I try not to breathe.  By the time I make it down to the main deck, everyone has vanished off to the showers, attempting to scrub off the daily layer of salt, or huddled in their bunks, trying to pick up enough Internet service for a few precious Skype moments with their significant other.

One of the young men from East Timor slowly walks back and forth spraying the deck with a fire hose of seawater.  His name is Masa and he has been in Australia for 18 months in a program set up by Clipper Pearls.  He has been learning the trade, and so far has sent his family enough money to buy a house, a car, and schooling for his younger siblings.  Masa tells me how he is going to return home and set up his own pearl farm.  He already has the site picked out.

Masa heads into dinner and I get a moment to breathe.  The sunset is a painting. There is absolutely nothing else around and the seas are calm.  The same squabble from this morning loudly approaches me from behind.  Pat and some of the crew have brought a case of the “good stuff” up to end the day with.  By “good stuff,” I mean Aussie 3.2% beer.  There are regulations about the alcohol content the crew can consume while out at sea, so we all sip our cold flavored water together.  Patrick points out Eighty Mile beach to the east, a historic site for the pearling luggers of the past, as a giant sea turtle swims by.

Francesco comes to the back of the boat with a big bucket and everyone cheers.  Alright!  He must be throwing dinner overboard and we’ll get takeout!  Fat chance. He dumps the scraps from breakfast and lunch (which strikingly resemble dinner) overboard as I watch curiously.

Chumming the water and attracting all kinds of fish

“Chumming ‘ze water,” he says, “we are going fishing.”

Before I know it, dozens of small fish have gathered at the surface, so preoccupied with feeding that they fail to notice the larger fish coming up to eat them.  It is getting dark now, so a few of the guys put on their head lamps and drop their lines in the water.  I cannot believe the feeding frenzy that is happening.  I have never seen such a cluster of marine life from the surface of the water.  Every type of fish you can imagine has swum to the surface: turtles, rays, even sea snakes.  It seems that Francesco has finally found an audience for his cooking.

Chef Francesco is a welcomed source of amusement aboard the ship

One of the guys next to me gets a promising bite and is really struggling to pull the line in.  Something big is hooked.  He slowly reels in a giant Mackerel.

Patrick starts talking about fresh sushi, and right as I get my hopes up, a huge tiger shark breaks the surface of the water and chomps our sushi dinner in half.  Hunger pangs and groans of frustration roll in from the crew as we reel in only the head of what could have been a delicious meal.  I’m too despondent to speak.

I was so excited about my sashimi that I didn’t see that we now had six to eight tiger sharks circling the boat.  They are impressive creatures to watch until you realize that not only did they steal your dinner, they are going to be feeding around the boat all night- and you’ll be diving in that water at sunrise.

“Sleep well tonight, huh?” says Pat.

No.  Probably not.  There is never a dull moment on a pearl farm.

Ahbra Perry is a filmmaker whose shorts have played in Cannes, Palm Springs, and the New York Film Festivals. She studied film at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco before forming On The Reel Productions with her partner Taylor Higgins. The two have poured their hearts and souls into telling great stories, raising social awareness, promoting an urgent need for the conservation of marine biodiversity, and for the empowerment of indigenous women. An educational series enlisted their wanderlust for a month long trip around the world with the Cultured Pearl Association of America. While in the Philippines their eyes were opened to a new side of the pearl. They are both driven by the dream of completing this film and sharing their passions with the world.

Follow the film on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PowerOfPearl and for more information visit www.powerofpearlmovie.com

Buoys holding pearl net growing South Sea pearls

The rugged coastline of the Australian Outback