- Harvest pearls when the nacre layer is 0.08-0.12 in (2-3 mm) thick.
- A good quality black pearl has a nacre layer at least 0.08-0.12 in (2-3 mm) thick, which takes a minimum of 18 months in most areas.
- Do not risk producing pearls with thin nacre by trying to harvest early. If you are not sure if your pearls have a thick enough layer of nacre to be harvested, harvest a few and have them drilled. Examination of the drilled hole with a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe will reveal whether the nacre is thick enough.
- Pearls with thin nacre have poorer luster and buyers will soon discover that these pearls are of inferior quality when they are drilled because they crack around the drill holes. Selling poor quality pearls can ruin your reputation as a pearl farmer and make future sales more difficult.
The technician who grafted the pearl oysters will likely want to return for the harvest. In most cases, technicians will want to harvest the pearls they grafted, especially when working for a share of the harvest. This is advantageous for the farmer because the technician will be especially motivated to work carefully.
Supervise all workers and technicians during the harvest.
Although most people are honest, it is not unusual for a pearl farmer to lose a high percentage of his harvest through theft. Some technicians may try and insist that the farmer not watch them harvest the pearls because of the supposed danger of revealing secret methods. This should not be allowed.
The farmer has the right to supervise all phases of the harvest. Additionally, pearls can easily be dropped and lost by careless workers. Having you there will make workers more careful because they may be held accountable for their actions. After harvest, pearls should be stored in a secure place.
A second or third graft may be performed on some pearl oysters. Second grafts can be an important part of operating a profitable farm. A skilled technician can graft a pearl oyster a second time if the first pearl produced is a high-quality, round pearl. Second grafts are only performed on pearl oysters that produce good pearls because the price of the larger nucleus used in the second graft is high. The second pearl will be larger and has a higher probability that it will be of good quality. Conversely, a pearl oyster that produces a poor quality first pearl will most likely produce a poor quality second pearl.
Wash pearls after harvesting.
Pearls will have a thin mucus coating when harvested, so it is best to keep them in freshwater until they can be cleaned using a salt bath. Special tumblers can be purchased for this purpose or a cloth bag can be used. Add approximately twice as much rock salt to the tumbler or bag as the volume of the pearls to be cleaned. Then add just enough freshwater to make a slushy mixture. Tumble or gently shake the bag for about 5 minutes. Next, rinse in freshwater and dry on a soft cloth. The pearls will be much more lustrous after cleaning. This is all the processing necessary for black pearls. Do not risk your reputation as a producer by attempting other forms of processing designed to cover flaws or poor luster.
An important part of grafting and harvesting is keeping thorough records. Keep records throughout the entire production process. Record the number of pearl oysters that were taken to be seeded, rejected, died and/or rejected the nucleus. The number of second or third grafts that were performed and how many pearls were harvested should also be recorded. Tracking the performance of individual technicians is also a good practice.
Article source: The Basic Methods of Pearl Farming, Author: A Layman’s ManualMaria Haws, Ph.D. (Director, Pearl Research and Training Program, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI 96720 USA, Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, Publication No. 127, March 2002)
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