The nucleation process has progressed from one man’s dream – Mikimoto – into a skilled trade. Nucleators must have steady hands and patience, as well as an in depth knowledge of the oyster’s anatomy to be successful. Even with the best of the nucleators, it is still a delicate procedure that usually results with many fatalities among those nucleated.
Even with the advances in the cultured pearl industry, the “perfect pearl” is rare and illusive. In estimates by experts, only about half of a given crop of oysters/mollusks will produce a pearl. Of those that produce a cultured pearl, only roughly 20% are sellable, and only about 5% are top gem quality pearls. To give you a picture of the rarity of perfect pearls, in 1999 approximately 430 million mollusks were harvested in Japan. Of these only 21 million gem-quality pearls were produced. Obviously the percentages vary between species of oysters/mollusks, along with other factors. But the difficulty in creating a beautiful cultured pearl has allowed pearls to remain a precious form of pearl jewelry.
The future in nucleation may rest with those types of pearls that we have not been able to culture yet. Those such as Melo Melo pearls and Abalone pearls that remain mysteries to the pearl world. Until then, we must make due with the beautiful saltwater and freshwater pearls that are now available to almost everyone.