The procedure for nucleating the south sea oyster, the P. Maxima, is basically the same as for the other saltwater pearl oysters. The nucleators complete the procedure after selecting a piece of mantle tissue and a bead made from American freshwater mussel shell. These are surgically inserted into the host oyster’s gonad. Some Australian nucleators even do this procedure aboard a special pearling ship at sea. These ships are basically floating laboratories where the workers can carefully maintain all the antiseptic and hygienic conditions. A healthy oyster is essential for high quality South Sea pearls.
During the nucleation periods, the boats are a whirlwind of activity. The crews haul the oysters aboard, clean them, and put them all in holding tanks. The shells are wedged open and lined up in trays beside the skilled technicians. Each nucleator usually inserts a minimum of 300 nuclei per say. Many Australians are now skilled at nucleating, but as a group the Japanese are still the experts at it. The highest quality of round south sea pearls are produced by Japanese nucleators.
After the delicate surgery is completed, the oysters are returned to the sea where the came from. They must remain there for several weeks in order to heal and recuperate. During this period, the oysters are turned to ensure symmetrical formation of the pearl sac. This increases the chance of perfectly round Cultured South Sea pearls which can be used in pearl earrings or pearl pendants creating beautiful pieces of pearl jewelry.