Ah the Harvest of the Pearl Farm! A time for high anxiety and hope for all associated with the pearl industry. After anywhere from 8 months to 6 years the time has finally arrived. Saltwater Cultured Akoya Pearls take the least amount of time which is from 8 months to 2 years after nucleating the Oyster. Saltwater South Sea Pearls, Saltwater Tahitian Pearls, and all Freshwater Pearls have a longer incubation cycle of between 2 years and 6 years.
The next stage after harvest is to clean and polish all pearls. This is a very important stage as it is at this stage that the discovery of the degree of luster comes into play. The excitement around the level of luster for each pearl at this time becomes apparent.
After polishing and sorting into sizes and quality for the pearl jewelry market, they are sold to the pearl processor. At that time pearls may go through other forms of treatment depending on their natural look. They may be dyed into another color i.e. black or an enhanced pink or another designer color. They could also be bleached or heat treated.
Of all the nucleated oysters approximately 50% will actually produce pearls. Of that number only 50% is considered good enough to be of any market quality whatsoever. Unfortunately only about 10% is considered good quality and about 5% is considered excellent quality. 1% is considered the very best in quality (AAA) and is normally pre-subscribed (purchased) in advance of the harvest. So presuming there are 100,000 oysters in this winter’s harvest and they are healthy, then about 5,000 of varying sizes, shapes and quality are considered good quality and about 1,000 of the 5,000 could be considered AAA quality. All this after a period of time up to 6 years waiting through many dangers including disease, violent storms, red tide and water pollution. The Harvest is a real time for celebration or sorrow.