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At Pyramid Studios our favorite pearls are those cultured and harvested by our friends in the Cook Islands, deep in the South Pacific. They come in hues of aubergine, green, silver and blue reflecting the South Pacific’s subtle sea tones. Cook Island pearls are normally larger than the white classic Akoya pearls.  They are produced by the black-lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera , which thrives in the unpolluted lagoons of Manihiki and Penrhyn in the Cooks. This is the same oyster that is farmed in Tahiti with a comparable range of sizes and colors.

In Polynesian mythology, the black pearl was the first light on earth, given by the Creator to Tane, god of harmony and beauty. The luster of the pearl is reminiscent of the rainbow belonging to Rongo, the god of peace, who descended from the heavens on a rainbow. A thousand years later in Polynesia, pearls remain the most treasured of all gems found the Pacific Island and is regarded as the queen of gems.

250px-Cook_Islands_on_the_globe_(Polynesia_centered).svgTo find the Cook Islands please stand on the top of Australia, now look over your right shoulder 3,500 miles or so to the east. Look closely, the total land mass is just a little larger than Washington, D.C.. Yeah, there they are. Nice, huh. Although pearls were first discovered and coveted in North Africa and Persia, the beauty of the South Pacific is what comes first to most minds.

The color of a pearl is determined predominately by the host oyster making the pearl and a bit by the seed or nuclei which is a tiny bead, hopefully perfectly round, inserted into the oyster.  In this case the black-lipped oyster.

Islanders have been diving for pearls since the 1800’s but pearl farming started much later in the 1970’s. Pearl culturing and harvesting is a delicate, labor intensive process dependent on the skill of man and the disposition of mother nature. (The pearl farms of the Cooks were almost wiped out by cyclone Martin in November of 1997). It takes professional skill and generous amounts of time, gentle tidal movement, water clarity, food supply and nutrients, plus infinite patience and constant care to grow a pearl.

Pearl seeding technicians are highly skilled. First, the oyster is collected and a trained technician puts a nucleus into the shell as well as a piece of mantle from a donor shell. The nucleus is a tiny sphere of crushed Mississippi freshwater clam specially farmed for the purpose. (Yes, you read that right. Most pearls in the world begin life in the Mississippi River Basin). The mantle is the part of the oyster flesh which lays down the mother-of-pearl coating, the nacre. The mantle creates a pouch around the nucleus and, over two years or so, puts thousands of very thin layers of nacre over it. The result, if perfect, is a perfectly spherical.

“The best pearls come from contented oysters” The Creation of a Pearl,  1997

To help them withstand the stress of the implant operation the mother shells have to be kept in good condition and this entails cleaning them constantly to prevent the build-up of algae and barnacles. This is the most important and time-consuming part of pearl farming.

In the Cook Islands pearls are harvested 18 months to 4 years after their seeding. Generally, it takes three years for an oyster to produce a mature pearl.

The price of a pearl depends on its quality and size. Pearls are graded by size, shape, surface characteristics, color and lustre.

—Size is in millimeters ranging between 8 and 12 with the occasional rare beauty reaching 13 to 15 millimeters.

—Surface characteristics can include surface blemishes such as pits, bumps, ridges, cracks and spots.

—Color is a matter of taste: it can range from deep black through silver grey and into white. Luster is caused by the reflection of light from the surface.

—Shape can be classified by round, drop or pear, button (round one side and flat the other), baroque (irregular) and circled (ringed).

The quality of the nacre dictates the quality of the luster, or shine of the pearl, which is very important to its beauty and its value.

Pyramid Studios has one of the premier selections of Cook Island Pearls in New England. Please stop by our shop at 10 State St. in Ellsworth and search our pearls for your special beauty.

Our store hours:

Wednesday – 10am – 5:30pm
Thursday – 10am – 5:30pm
Friday – 10am – 5:30pm
Saturday – 10am – 4:00pm
Sun/Mon/Tue – Closed

Our web store is open 24/7 and can be located here: Pyramid Studios.

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