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Because they are raised, not mined, pearls can be the most ecologically responsible gem you can buy. Not all pearls are 100 percent natural or sustainably produced however so it’s important to know where your pearls come from.
The desire to farm Tahitian pearls begins with a dream, which then transforms into reality. This reality is made up first of heavy investment, then strenuous work, then more investment, then more work and so on until the harvest of those first pearls. This could be four or more years after setting out in the first place.
We finished up our mid-day meal and like usual, I put a kettle of hot water on the stove for tea and coffee. On the farm in the Tuamotus, it rarely gets hotter or colder than 85° year-round. That’s the temperature of the lagoon water, which keeps things incredibly constant. A hot beverage was more about prolonging our meal than anything else. Like any kind of farming, our work was almost sure to be physically demanding. As soon as lunch was over we would be back at it until the end of the day.
The following Sunday I made my way across the 5 kilometers of lagoon that separated our farms. He invited me to eat with him which I gladly accepted. After I cleaned my plate of stewed chicken, peas and white rice with a piece of baguette, he asked me with a half smile if I wanted to see the pearls. He knew I was more than a little eager to see them and he seemed to be enjoying taking his sweet time. Of the 20 oysters second-grafted, 14 of them had produced pearls.
"Are you sure?” This seemed crazy to me. I searched Julien’s green eyes for any sign of him kidding around. His sun blackened face was typically animated by a faint mischievous smile, infused with good nature but sometimes you wondered. Julien was a Paumotu (person of the Tuamotu Archipelago) and one of the tiny handful of farmers who had started farming Tahitian pearls around the same time as our farm, circa 1990.
This post is a nod to one of my favorite types of Tahitian pearls: baroques.
By definition a baroque pearl has one single trait that other pearl types (round, semi-round, semi-baroque and circled) share: no axis of symmetry.
Jason Momoa, the new face of Conan the Barbarian, wearing a Tahitian pearl on leather.
A friend of mine sent me this photo because I'm a huge Conan the Barbarian fan. Haha, not really but the trailer sure looks like fun.
These are some circled pearls. The ones in the background are in an oyster shell. Circled pearls have rings that pinch into the pearl and strongly affect (for the best) the color. Circled pearls are often the most lively and have more character than other forms of pearl with the possible exception of the free form baroques.
This past week we set pearls and work aside, packed up the car and headed for the mountains. Summer is fleeting here in the Pacific North West so we have been itching to get away from our home in Portland to enjoy it. There's much to do here of course but having back-packed with our parents, Celeste and I were both keen to get our kids out to see what the higher elevations of Oregon had to offer.
This is a photo I took on my last trip to the farm. The shine on the buoy is from a full moon that came up a little before the sun went down over the land.