How to culture an oyster pearl in 6 easy steps
Start with a healthy oyster, it needs to be a 3 year old oyster that is ready for an exciting adventure. Then place a peg similar to an old fashioned clothes peg onto it, so it cannot open, not much fun but the result PEARLS is worth it.
Release me! Place the oyster at eye level in front of an experienced technician. Usually of Japanese descent, as their success rate is second to none. The technician releases the clothes peg and places an obstruction similar to a door stopper at the back of the oyster close to the sexual organ, where there is least resistance.
This won’t hurt … Honest! The technician will make a cut near the sexual organ and place a piece of epithelial cell graft that has come from the mantle tissue of a donor oyster. Then a round bead is placed above the epithelial graft. This graft needs to cover at least 1/3 of the nuclei surface. If successful it will form a pearl sac which is rather like a placenta. The nervous system of the oyster is very primitive, hence it probably does not hurt much. The implanted oyster is placed back into the sea within minutes. Yet sadly 50% of the seeded oysters die or eject the nucleus.
The pearl sac is similar to the placenta. A fully functioning pearl sac, will secrete layers of nacre onto the bead or nucleus and cover it. So the nucleus is enveloped, two layers of nacre are produced each tide, so layer by layer, the obstruction eventually forms a pearl, the nucleus turns freely within the pearl sac, rather like a foetus in the placenta.
I am a cool nucleated pearl! Because these pearls have a nucleus as an irritant they are termed nucleated. Cultured oyster pearls are normally harvested in the colder months when the nacre layers are thinner and hence the lustre will usually be at its best.
I am an “only” babe Generally each oyster produces only one pearl, which means the oysters are looked after very carefully in a farm; predators like starfish are kept at bay, each oyster is checked and scrubbed at least three times a year and kept under close supervision.