#thisispearl Feb 2021 - Page 23

This has been our specialty since 2013, when we were producing so many pearls that we ran out of mature oysters to graft.

To combat the grafter shortage, we luckily had the foresight to train locals, so now we rely solely on them.

At that time, we were faced with an unprecedented decision: stop grafting for three months (until age-appropriate or 9- to 10-centimeter oysters could be found) or graft smaller Tahitian pearls. This meant we needed not only smaller nuclei but also smaller knives and pincers (used to prop open oysters during nucleation), among other tools. It was a bittersweet move, but buyers ended up loving the tiny pearls! But now, niche aside, we’re in a tight spot because of lack of production and trade shows at which to sell.

Back in 2000, I was able to collect at least 1.5 million spats and was able to bring them to viable and usable sizes of great quality. At the height of our production in 2011, we were putting out 250,000 viable pearls to market every year. We are now barely producing twenty thousand pearls.

In the fall of 2020, I was able to take a trip to Europe, the U.S. and Mexico, so I was able to sell some pearls, but other than that, the 2021–2022 harvest is looking bleak. Pearl farming is dealing with nature, a fickle master. And when she wants to, she can erase in one single stroke a lifetime’s worth of work. Pearl farming is hard.

All the best, Alex

Reach Collins at adcdcs@yahoo.com.

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