Did you know that one pearl takes two to three years to produce? South Sea pearls, found in the largest pearl-producing oyster in the world—the Pinctada Maxima— typically range from 10 to 16mm in size and can only produce one pearl at a time. That’s a long period for such a small outcome. However, these pearls are widely regarded as the largest and of the finest quality, with unequalled lustre and nacre thickness with no need for further enhancement. So, these are the pearls we choose to use throughout our collection.
How are Pearls Made?
Did you know that a pearl is an irritant captured inside of the oyster that is slowly coated in nacre over many years? What's Nacre you ask? It's the same material that lines the inside of an oyster’s shell. In fact, it's what Mother-of-Pearl is made of. This is one of those processes that proves the power of nature—it's incredible.
What is the Pinctada Maxima Oyster?
Well, it's the largest of the mollusc family and is found in the warm waters of North-Western Australia. They’re quite temperamental oysters and will quickly deteriorate if moved from their native home. They were first discovered in the 1880s, leading to the establishment of the city of Broome and the great Australian pearling industry. For a time, Broome was producing 80% of the world’s Mother-of-Pearl supply—making things like buttons and knife handles— and 60 to 70% of the world’s supply of cultured pearls. To protect these oysters, the Australian government enforced strict production quotas that still exist today. Keeping in mind that an oyster is also a living organism, they are regularly cleaned and checked to ensure they remain healthy and have a long lifespan.
How Do you Farm Pearls?
To begin the process of creating a pearl, a bead is carefully placed inside of the oyster, which is called "nucleation." A Pinctada Maxima oyster can be nucleated up to four times over its 15-year-lifespan with the third nucleation often resulting in the largest pearl. However, nucleation does not always result in the creation of a pearl. Cultured pearls—those that undergo nucleation—from the Pinctada Maxima are known to possess a particularly thick Nacre with beautiful transparency and a coloured overtone known as "orient." Orient pearls have rainbow hues which can range from white-pink to silver pink through to dark gold. The farming of these pearls is highly intensive and must be carefully undertaken by trained diving and surgical professionals. By necessity, Pinctada Maxima farms are situated in remote locations, accessible only via boat or seaplane.
Are All Pearls Round?
Although most people believe pearls are perfectly round, this is a common misconception. As the oyster coats the pearl with Nacre over time, the shape often becomes irregular, making truly round pearls quite rare. The pearls we use in our Vela pieces are circle pearls. These pearls are irregularly shaped with no two the same. We think this makes them a little more interesting as each pearl has its own unique personality—just like you.
We will only be producing a limited run of circle South Sea pearl jewellery. This is just the beginning, as there are many rare gems in Australia that we will showcase in collections to come.