Most pearls are cultured, even so, they are still an entirely natural gem. In their natural surroundings, the pearl oysters create the mother-of-pearl and leave layers upon layers around the small foreign body. The step from natural to cultured pearl is the human touch of inserting a foreign body, the nucleus, thus encouraging the pearling process.
PEARL CULTURE IN FRENCH POLYNESIA
Culturing methods can vary from one oyster species to the other. For a Tahiti cultured pearl it generally takes the oyster five years to make the first pearl. The oyster must be around three years old before it is ready for grafting. In the process of grafting, a small nucleus is inserted. The nucleus is made from organic material, mother-of-pearl from a freshwater mussel cultured in the Mississippi river in the USA. Together with the nucleus, a small piece of mantle tissue is inserted. The following time of growth is approximately two years. When a good quality pearl is harvested another pearl can be produced in the same oyster. The pearl oyster only carries one pearl at a time. But a healthy pearl oyster can make three pearls in its lifetime. This means that large pearls above 14mm have a birth time of almost 10 years, explaining their high value. The oyster is under continuous observation during the two years the pearl is growing in order to ensure the best living conditions in the lagoons regarding oxygen and food supply. The pearl culture is very dependent on its natural surroundings and is thus much dependant on a healthy environment. The pearl culture is part of a natural cycle: the more balanced the environmental conditions are the better the quality of the pearls. Where conscious, protective efforts are carried out, nature truly rewards us.