The Weirdest & Funniest Pearl Farm in the World

And this is basically the way we were designated by National Geographic in their “World’s Weirdest” TV Series, under the “Funniest Farms” banner. The program aired back in February 14th of 2014 in NatGeo’s TV network but we were totally oblivious since the program has not been dubbed nor sub-titled and has never aired in Spanish speaking countries. So we just kind of forgot that we had been visited by Nick Patterson and Pete Allibone of WAG.TV productions back in December of 2012 to film our pearl farming operation (you can go back an read all about it here), but then about a month ago we heard from some of our visitors that they had seen the episode where our farm was featured!

NatGeo's World's Funniest

I started looking for the program and almost immediately hit a wall: not available in YouTube and when I found it in both Amazon’s video service and on Xbox Video I was really happy! until I noticed it would not allow me to buy it because it is not available in “My Region” (whatever this means while on the Internet). This was a total let down…so I got in contact with good old Nick (who was placidly tanning himself somewhere in the Caribbean) and he sent me a link to watch the whole show. Finally, after only 18 months, we could finally see the end product of that long and interesting work day with these absolute TV professionals. The results were amazing.

Since I cannot share the entire video for obvious reasons, I decided to make a very short (40 seconds) video of the episode on the pearl farm. It obviously lacks everything but gives you an idea of what to expect, so I do hope you will enjoy watching it.

Personal Thoughts

I really enjoyed the show. Found it has a disturbingly interesting way to entertain, amuse and befuddle you with words like “feces”, “testicles” or witty comments such as “…if the oyster dies, I can always eat it!” when I was operating an oyster. But above these…the imagery: Pete had a great chance to film that day when they visited us. A cold-front was coming in and we had a major fog-bank in the bay, which led to one of the best and most beautiful time-lapses I have seen of this area. Simply stunning.

The end result was entirely eclectic: a mixture of seriousness and humor, of marvelous photography of Bacochibampo Bay amidst the fog and of the pearl seeding operation, of the pearl farm and of the pearl harvest. Basically: the whole enchilada.

It was truly a very professional job and we are very grateful to Nick, Pete, the crew at WAG.TV and NatGeo for their visit and for showing the world our curiously weird and little pearl farm in the Sea of Cortez.

Do you want to know our Pearl Farm??? What are you waiting for!!! Guaymas and San Carlos are a marvelous place to vacation and you can also visit one of the World’s Funniest and Weirdest Pearl Farms in the World…right here in Sonora, Mexico.

Bacochibampo con Neblina (7)

Unusual Vampire Mabe Blisters

 

Whoa! This year we have a very special group of out-of-the-ordinary Cortez Blister Pearls…why are these so Special??? Well, let me explain:

  1. Many of these are BIG! As you are well aware our “Rainbow Lip Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna) is NOT a Big oyster, more of a mid-sized animal…just between the large “black/silver/gold lips” (Pinctada margaritifera & Pinctada maxima) and the smaller “Akoya Pearl Oyster” (Pinctada imbricata=fucata). The average size of our Cortez Mabe Pearls is 14 mm in diameter.
  2. These Cortez Mabe are VERY BAROQUE, or beyond baroque or simply put: Naturally Shaped. Our Mabe Pearls are never identical and are mostly free-form but leaning towards oval and teardrop shapes.
  3. Their RARITY: this group is very unusual and rare…just 21 pearls out of a harvest of over 2 thousand that we harvested in 2014. Yes, basically just 1.05% of last year’s harvest!
  4. Their ORIGIN: now, this is the final nail in the coffer in a manner of speaking! Why, because this group is basically made up of 100% Natural Blister Pearls that have –for the first time- been processed into Mabe.

Are these really Natural????

Yes. And there is a special story to these. Let me tell you this story.

Back in 2012, when we were seeding our pearl oysters we started to notice something odd in them…snails. There were hundreds of these snails we had never seen before. There were so many that we found them with the oysters and we started noticing some INSIDE of the Rainbow Lips too!

Caracol Adulto que creemos esta metiendose en Pteria sterna (1)

At that same time we received a group of Malacologists from Florida and we told them about this issue, they kept some specimens and headed back. Manuel and I started looking for the name of this unknown snail and we came up with the same name, later we received confirmation from Florida: Vitularia salebrosa, an ecto-parasitic snail of the Murex family. This blew my mind!

I had never seen such a variety of snail before and I had never seen how they actually found their way inside the oyster’s shell to suck its blood like an armored leech (yes, they suck the blood of its host), you can actually read all about it in this scientifically detailed article.

Well, the oysters don’t have their “Vampire Hunters” but instead they use the millennia old trick they know all too well: if it harms you, turn it into something beautiful…just make a Pearl!

But at the moment I was looking at these snails I just wanted to know more about them, and because of this I just left the snails inside the oysters allowing Nature to follow its course. And Nature did its thing.

We collected and photographed some of these nails, we found them in all colors and sizes. That year was the year of the Vampire Snail.

Caracol, snail, Vitularia salebrosa 044

We find them rarely these days. Must have been one of those “weird natural cycles” that Nature usually surprises us with. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find the photos I took of these snails as they were being coated with protein by the oyster. I kept one shell with its snail, but dehydration has pretty much damaged the shell.

Vitularia salebrosa in Pteria sterna shell (1)

Vitularia salebrosa in Pteria sterna shell (2)

This is the first time ever such an event has been described with these species of mollusks.

Another very interesting and noticeable feature is what I would call “Health”. Sick or unhappy oysters usually have a very dull shell, whereas “happy” or healthy oysters display beautiful colors. The oyster shell with the parasitic snail looks quite unhappy.

Shell comparisson

So, now you finally understand why these pearls are all so Special and Unique. In a way they tell us a unique story of how we can all withstand pain, endure and ultimately create something beautiful from it.

If oysters can do it, so can we do it. It is your choice to create your own glorious pearl.

WP_20150601_11_26_57_Raw

On Sale Soon!

These pearls will soon become available for purchase in our e-Sales website, but you can also write to secure your own! Remember we only have 21 of these ready for you to set them in Jewelry and enjoy Nature’s perplexing beauty.

P.S.: I hope you don’t write in to tell me that “Pearls are produced by a Grain of Sand”. I finally have overcome my anxiety towards this myth and won’t go into a fit 😉

Cheers!!!

Our Pearl Farm is becoming more Known

OK. Tried my best to do a play-of-words with the title (have I failed miserably???) and the contents of this entry. This is all about the recent visit of the crew of Mexican Magazine “México Desconocido” (it would translate into “Unknown Mexico”) to our pearl farm just last week! (May 22nd).

If you follow our Blog you may have heard that we appeared in this magazine in a full-fledged article back in the year 2007. The article was called “Sowing Pearls and Dreams in Guaymas” (lovely title, unfortunately not translated into English but you may use a translator to achieve a minimum degree of information). The article was really well written and had some really good photos. We are very thankful to Mexico Desconocido for this chance to appear before their audience.

The photos I mention do not appear in the on-line version of the article so I prepared this small collage of the article that will give you a better insight.

 

This year, Mexico Desconocido has returned to Guaymas and decided to re-visit us. On this occasion we are not going to be featured in a unique article but instead we will become a part of an article about Guaymas-San Carlos, showcasing our local beauties and attractions…the pearl farm is –of course- a major attraction in the area.

So our own Manuel Nava took the reigns and received our friend Mariel Rivera –she is the head of the local visitor’s center in San Carlos- and two young reporters from this magazine so they could visit our Pearl Farm in style…they even had a boat ride to the farm.

Finally, they had the chance of seeing the end product: thousands of colorful cultured and Mabe pearls! Mariel even tried on some of our amazing new jewelry designs made 100% in Mexico (pearl, silver, design and workmanship).

So, now that you have seen that “Unknown Mexico” knows about us…What are you waiting to come and visit and know more about the farm and its pearls???

I mean…specially if you are in the vicinity, the next closest commercial Pearl Farm (by this I mean a REAL pearl farm and not a tourist trap) is located in Fiji, some 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) away from us!!!

Guaymas is much closer (unless you are not of course and you are reading this blog in Fiji itself) and we do have these great places to eat, beautiful beaches and sunsets, stunning desert views and diving and fishing enough to satiate your desires…and did I mention… PEARLS????? Yes, we have them too.

So, just come on over and enjoy our hospitality! Hope to see you down here at the farm soon.

May 2015 News

Just a very quick note on recent events here at the Cortez Pearl farm:
1) This Year’s Harvest is Coming Up! Our 16th Harvest of Cultured Pearls and 20th of Cortez Mabe is due in June. Stay tuned for more news!
2) Our 1st TV Commercial is ready and has already started airing on Mexican National TV and will soon air in Arizona (USA) in the Hispanic “TV Azteca” channel. Kudos for the work of our friend Abraham Castro of Onyx fame.

3) What is the story behind these unusual “Mabe Pearls”??? More information will soon follow. These are something special…

Unusual Cortez Mabe

4) Our 1st “Cortez Pearl Information e-Mail” is finally out! We will have news delivered straight into you e-mail inbox every 15 days if you subscribe…and there are special perks such as discount coupons if you do subscribe. If interested please send us an e-mail or via the comments area below.

I have been doing quite a bit of experimentation on some oysters lately, so I spend quite some time at the “Pearl Seeding Lab” and little time can be spent writing but I am excited to soon share more news with you all.

Stay Tuned!

The 2015 Tucson Gem Show part 2 – Final comments

Amazing. We are are almost about to start with the month of May and I am about to write about things that happened way back in February. Goes to show how tight a schedule I have.

But here I am again sharing my thought and comments, hoping some of these things will be of help and interest to you all. So, let me know start with the JEWELRY, a most pleasant subject.

This year we were pleasantly surprised by our many talented friends. Kathe of TriGem Designs, Alejandra of Alejandra and Sarah of Kojima Pearl have been busy producing some of the most beautiful Cortez Pearl jewelry designs we have been able to see these last years. Gold, silver, gemstones and Cortez Pearls are all combined to produce wearable beauty to please the beautiful women that grace our fair Earth. Let me show you some of the beautiful pieces we saw in Tucson this 2015 and some that even made it all the way to our Cortez Pearl Jewelry store in Guaymas (and that you may also see in our eStore).

Kathe Mai of  TriGem Designs

Kathe’s jewelry designs may be easily explained with just one word: Timeless. These are classic pieces that could have been worn 100 years ago, but also worn today and will be worn 100 years from now. Simply put: these are jewelry designs that will not suffer from the ravages of “fashion statements”. You may agree or disagree with me…but I believe you will agree these are beautiful pieces, and all of their accompanying stones are Fair Trade Gems as usual.

Another great thing about her jewelry is that it feels equally at home being worn with a fancy night dress or with just normal day wear such as jeans. My personal favorites are the 14K Rosé Gold with Cortez Mabe and Nyala Rubi piece and the 18K Yellow gold Cortez Mabe piece that has little moveable gold waves…reminds me of a jellyfish.

Joyeria-de-TriGem-Designs-2

This year Kathe came out with more Cortez Mabe Pearl jewelry designs and she is also busy preparing a new line of jewelry for this year…a special line that we will not disclose until it is ready. Expect something special later this year!

 

Alejandra Solomone of Alejandra Jewels

Alejandra has a hectic and contrasting life: she moves and feels equally at home in the great city of New York and her mother’s ranch in the Sierra Madre in Mexico. Quite a contrast! She is both a sophisticate cosmopolitan woman and a horse mounted Amazon and her jewelry also defies our imagination with its colorful designs.

This year she incorporated even more colors in her new designs –all of them available at our eStore and here in Guaymas- with the help of beautiful Mexican Fire Opals, Granates, Sapphires and Diamonds. This year she worked wonders on our Cortez Pearls, Mabe and Keshi.

Joyería-Alejandra-2015

Yesterday we were preparing our first ever TV commercial (to air on State television here in Sonora and in TV Azteca Arizona) and Rocío chose a pair of beautiful earrings by Alejandra for this special occasion. I believe you can agree they look stunning.

 

Sarah Cannizaro of Kojima Pearl Co

Our dear friend Sarah is increasing her Cortez Pearl inventories and she has been coming up with many special requests by pearl connoisseurs…her recent designs also incorporate the inspiration of her husband Mounir. You can see his vision on the pair of Mabe Pearl earrings, a great contrast with the violet stones and the Cortez mabe pearls.

I expect to see many more great designs from Sarah and Mounir in the years to come. You can find more of Sarah and Mounir’s jewelry at the Kojima website…and they also carry a great selection of Kamoka Pearls -from our friends Josh and Celeste- and have exclusive Kasumiga pearls as well, so you can’t really go wrong with Kojima if you intend to find that “special pearl” that we all are looking for.

Sarah-joyeria-2015

And that is that in the case of Cortez Pearl Jewelry at this year’s edition of the Tucson Gem Show. For now I will shift gears into two very different subjects: Great Food & Great friends and Mexican Fire Opals.

 

Mexican Fire Opals by Opalos & Artesanias Mexicanas

I love pearls above all gemstones. In a close second place I have Opals, followed by Emeralds and Amber. I am not that fond of the shiny, glittering stones…but Fire Opals are special to me, they can also have such varied looks! I mean: some can look glacial white, others are a flaming orange, then bright Yellows and even a soft soapy pink! You would think you are talking about different stones but no, these are the Opals of Mexico and our friend Luciano Tamayo and his family are the owners of the best mine in Jalisco. They have taken the art of Opal processing to a new level and offer them in very conceivable shape, size and colors…from minimalistic rough-cut opals to perfect cut opals and everything in between like the baroque shaped opals that Alejandra used in her Cortez Keshi and Opal earrings.

Opals

Our friend Luciano and his family are always ready to take care of your special Opal needs at the Tucson Gem Show (same tent as we are, the GJX just across from the Tucson Convention Center) and you can contact them via e-mail too.

 

Great Dinners with Great Friends

I believe the Pearl Industry is special and different from all others. Over the years you end up making great friends, all sharing this common passion for pearls and jewelry. This year we had our nights filled with laughs, merry drinks and great food…but it is the friends we join the ones that actually make it a special moment. Thank you all for your friendship, for being gracious hosts and for sharing your love and knowledge of pearls (and Spirits!) with us.

Dinner-Friends

And with these last words I bid you all a Great Spring!

The Tucson Gem Show, part 1

February 4th, 2015: Here I am reporting from Tucson, Arizona, in what is considered the largest international gems & mineral show, a city that becomes a haven for precious gems, semi-precious stones, fossils and all kinds of jewelry in the world. This year -and every year since 1995- we are displaying our exclusive and unique Cortez Pearls, and every year I try make a small report about the people, companies, products or events that drew my attention,and this year is no exception.

But before I begin with a general report of 2015’s Tucson Gem Show I want to start with a very quick report about our Cortez Pearls production. I will begin with the information about our 2014 Pearl harvest.

The 2014 Cortez Pearl Harvest

The year 2014 will go down in the annals of our history as a bittersweet year: we had the best pearl harvest in our history: after more than 15 years of commercial pearl production, we finally reached the goal of the 4 kilos of Cortez Pearls (this means just around 4,000 pearls). But despite the very good news, we also had problems with the environment (global warming) and this resulted in a very high mortality in the group of oysters that will allow us to produce pearls in the year 2016. Because of this reason, we have had this bittersweet situation.

Some of the novelties of 2014 and that we are showing here at the Tucson Gem Show are these:

We have a new variety of Cortez Mabe Pearl on sale: we call it the “Mini-Mabe”, these are Mabe pearls that have a lower dome height and a smaller diameter (this means, much smaller than traditional Cortez Mabe), but this gives them a lower value of investment and -in addition- it also allows the jeweler or designer to use less metal to produce jewelry items that are more affordable for the end user. These pearls have been used by our Australian distributor (Raw Pearls of Adelaide) with great success, and these lovely little Mabe have caused a great impact at the Gem Show and are all but almost exhausted.

“Raw Pearls” – Turtle Pendant w/CortezMini Mabe

News

For this show’s gems have been exhibiting the Cortez Pearls of the 2014 harvest (the 2015 harvest will take place in the middle of this year) and among the most important items I have to mention is the beautifully unique 2014 Cortez Pearl necklace. This beautiful necklace consists of 43 cultured pearls from the Gulf of California, all the pearls were produced by our exclusive “Rainbow Lip Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna) and was made with pearls of at least 6 different yearly harvests. This multicolor, graduated necklace is made with pearls that measure between 8.3 mm and 10.6 mm, with the central Pearl -an incredible dark purple-red Cortez Pearl- measuring 11.3 mm. What else can I tell you about this beautiful necklace? It is an extremely rare piece, this would be the 11th Special Cortez Pearl Necklace that we have produced with this finesse and quality… and it’s a uniquely special piece, the owner will even have the right to Christen it with a unique name and this name will be linked to the necklace for generations to come.

Cortez Pearl Necklace 2014

Among the pearls that came to Tucson, we have the large Cortez Blister Mabe Pearls, which this past year were more abundant than in other years, but that ultimately are a little more than 100 pearls… these pearls have beautiful colors and larger sizes (reaching up to 5 cm/2” in diameter), and are perfect for producing pieces of jewelry with a high visual impact.

Cortez Mabe Blister

In general this year’s gem show had a special flavor to it, something which I had not felt in many recent years and that I can only describe in a single word: enthusiasm.

This enthusiastic atmosphere seemed widespread amongst buyers and most of the sellers, and I believe this optimism may be due to the recovery or improvement of the United States economy (although customers from Canada and other oil exporting countries were not in the same spirit). Let us hope that this spirit will also translate into an overall growth of the international jewelry industry.

Note: The information you have read up to the previous paragraph was written while at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, but as of this moment the report was written on February 11th. There was simply too much work at our booth and I could not continue with a “live and direct” report.

Elisabeth Strack’s Pearl Presentation (AGTA)

The AGTA carries out seminars and lectures by expert gemologists, designers and industry analysts every year. This year was no exception and we were lucky to go to the presentation of one of the foremost authorities in the world of pearls: German Gemologist Dr. Elisabeth Strack, author of what many (myself included) consider to be the Pearl Bible: “Perlen“.

The presentation took place on February 4th at the Tucson Convention Centre and  Dr. Strack spoke mainly about three issues:

1) the “new wave” of natural pearls, mainly made up of non-conventional species (non-nacreous pearls from snails, clams and even the Nautilus) and

2) a review of some pearl innovations, such as the RFID enabled Pearls and the “Provoked Baroques” as well as a redefinition of freshwater pearls based on their production system (Note: if interested, my friend Caitlin Williams wrote an amazing article on the Evolution of the Freshwater Pearl on the PearlsOfJoy.com website. I recommend Caitlin’s article wholeheartedly).

3) the Natural Pearl Market: Something that seems very important to stress is that Dr. Strack explained that the way in which you can assign a monetary value to a natural  pearl no longer obeys the “old pricing rules” which seemed to function for centuries; she basically states that today the value of a pearl is just a “thing of the market”, where the price of the pearl basically depends on what a customer is willing to pay for it. Wow.

She mentioned the famous that the once popular pearl pricing “Rule of Tavernier”, named in honor of Jean Baptiste Tavernier (a great Explorer and French merchant of the 17th century who discovered the famous “Tavernier Blue” diamond) is no longer the “rule of thumb” for natural pearl pricing. This rule basically consists of a system based upon two factors and their interaction:

  • The “Size Factor“: basically the weight of a Pearl is obtained in grains (a grain being equal to 64.79891 milligrams) and this value is then multiplied by itself. Thus, if a Pearl weighs 4 grains its size factor value will be equal to (4 x 4 =) 16.
  • The “Multiplier Factor” or of Quality/Beauty: Tavernier established a range between 0.5 and 30 as a possible value for the pearl’s quality or beauty.  Pearls of little or no beauty will be valued between 0.5 and 3, while the more “normal” pearls fall within the range of 15 to 20, and exceptionally beautiful pearls -the so called “gems”- will fall within the range between 25 to 30. Once you select the appropriate number you proceed to…
  • Multiply the Factors: take the resulting number of “Size Factor” (SF) and that of the “Multiplier Factor” (MF) and multiply them. In an example, lets us say that we have two pearls, one being very beautiful (MF = 30) and a far less graceful one (MF = 0.5); if both weigh the same (8 grains, SF = 16) then we have that the price of the gem pearl will be $480 and the less graceful one will be worth just a mere $8.

And in what currency is the value of the Pearls set in the examples above? In US dollars according to Strack (for more information, you can consult Elisabeth Strack’s book “Pearls” on pages 297 and 298). I assume that there was another currency in use in the times of Monsieur Tavernier, very probably the most international currency of the day was the “Mexican Peso” (also known as “Real Español”), but Dr. Strack found a way to upgrade its outdated value to a 2006 equivalent (date of the publication of her book). We are fortunate to have it so easy.

But again, for Elisabeth Strack, the price of natural pearls today is completely out of all rules and simply depends on the “market”.

An example she provided with a pair of natural Pteria sterna pearls, the same oyster that we use to produce our beautiful Cortez Pearls, is revealing. In this example, she had the photo of two tear-drop shaped pearls, one of weighing 10.15 ct (carats) and the other one at 1345 ct; these were sold to a final price of $2,600 to $26,390 USD USD/ct…equivalent to some by smaller Pearl and $34,970 USD by the greater size.

Having used the rule of Tevernier, the value of these same pearls would be a little different (I’ll use a 15 FM as an example):

  • 10.15 ct = mg = 31.33 2,030 grains then 31.33 x 31.33 x 15 = $14,723 USD
  • 1345 ct = mg = 41.51 2.690 grains then 41.51 x 41.51 x 15 = $25,846 USD

In this case the price could be very different, since I don’t have the actual MF value assigned to these pearls, but changing this value would obviously make a huge difference.

It’s really rare to find pearls like those in the example above, so if you do find a natural pearl… first you should consider its size/weight and then its beauty. Please do not become too emotional with the price and then do consult with an expert in this field before you actually tell your boss you quit and will move next to your favorite movie star’s house.

It is very important that you know and understand this: these prices are the end customers pay. What I mean by this? That these would be the prices that people pay as Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Paul Allen, Mark Zuckberg, etc… and not are prices that could pay the intermediaries, which are those who buy these pearls and can offer them to another intermediary (the famous Jewelers like Tiffany, Cartier, Harry Winston, etc.) who is who ends up offering these gems to moguls. The only way in which you could access these prices is you go directly to the final customer… it would be good to know them and they you know you so you open up the doors.

At the moment it is the information that I am going to share this great annual event in Arizona, but next week I will continue with additional information about the event. I hope that the information is of utility and interest and here my kind readers I’ll be sharing my expert advice with you.

The Times they are a’changing

Hello again and this time I am very happy to share the news with you all: The times they are a’changing! Never did the lyrics of Bob Dylan have so much meaning for me as they do now. Why??? Because after a couple of years having many problems here at our Pearl farm it seems as if we are finally coming out of the tunnel and we are ready to start a new era of growth and prosperity.

We have many new projects heading your way, including some that are not necessarily Huge, but important nonetheless and that I want to let you know about including:

The Internet of Pearls

Longhi Pendant with Baroque Cortez Pearl
Longhi Pendant with Baroque Cortez Pearl

An Improved Internet presence: Our main website has been revamped with new technology to take advantage of the new “mobile era”, so you will notice that its graphics now work perfectly with all smartphones, tablets and PCs. You might notice some problems with the graphics if you use my favorite browser (Internet Explorer) but I will iron many of the glitches in the following months. I hope you enjoy the new look of our website.

Another change will take place in our Cortez Pearl Blog (will also add the same mobile features) and our twitter and Facebook accounts will practically come back to life in full color too! I am very happy to welcome Daniel Duarte into our workforce as Manager of Internet Sales and Social Media. He has an innate ability with technology, he’s very articulate in both English and Spanish, he is also an excellent photographer and I am sure he will do an excellent job to supply you all with the news and photos I never had the time to share with you. He will also assist me in some of the new projects, such as the “New and Improved” Cortez Pearl Sales Site. One of the things we will change is the name of the site, to make it more meaningful: from “Perlas Shop” it will become “Cortez Pearl” and will have many new features, including a bilingual setting (Spanish and English), will allow payment in your local coin and have a complete mobile experience. We will also have a much improved selection of Cortez Pearl jewelry for you…but in the meantime, if you visit our “old site” www.perlasshop.com will have a much better selection of goods, including many new jewelry styles being added daily for your purchasing pleasure 😉

Mobile Sales Stores

Since the year 2000 we have been considered the most important private touristic attraction in Guaymas, having well over 100,000 visitors from over 20 countries. The pearl farm is also a choice attraction for large groups of students and international visitors that visit the area with tour buses and cruise ships. One would think that all visitors will feel attracted to the Pearl Farm Tour, but some just can’t seem to make it to the farm.

For this select group of people we have come up with a mobile solution too: we will go to you. So we are setting up shop in certain local hotels during certain weekends: Hotel Playas de Cortés, Marinaterra and San Carlos Plaza. Here we will offer their guests with information about our pearl farm, what makes our pearls uniquely different and also some select Cortez pearl jewelry items.

Mobile Sales
Mobile Sales

A New & Improved Pearl Farm Tour

For next year I plan on having a new and improved pearl farm tour. It will be shorter at 30 minutes than the usual tour we have now (50 minutes) but it will become a hands-on experience too: the idea is that you will be able to touch and see more, become more involved with the activities and even have a guided tour underwater, so you can experience the serene beauty of the pearl farm: a place filled with Life.

We will keep you informed of the new pearl farm by the end of this seeding season, but I am confident our visitors will be very pleased and thrilled with some of these new activities.

So, what do you think of all these changes? Are we missing something you would like to have or see? Please drop by our new sites and give us a new try this Holiday Season!!!

Thank you all for your support this challenging year of 2014 and I hope I will be able to have a new post out before the year’s end.

Diving at the Farm

 We seem to have survived quite unscathed from th…

 We seem to have survived quite unscathed from this year’s hurricane season. Only “Odile” caused some damage at the farm: thankfully we were just “kissed” with a bit of rain but we did experience some strong winds that brought us some good height waves (reports of up to 6 meters/19 feet in our area). The damage to the farm was minimal, but the waves battered down and collapsed the main access to our work area (the “palapa”) and we are not going to be able to offer any guided pearl farm tours until it is fully repaired, hoping we will be ready by the end of October.

On the opposite side of the Gulf of California: La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and other communities experienced significant damage to homes, hotels and shops, as well as on the roads, electrical infrastructure and drinking water supply. We send our sincere wishes of speedy recovery to our brothers and sisters in Lower California.

And here is where it all ends for most people: in the material and human damages. But I think that most people forget yet another innocent victim of these devastating forces: our Biodiversity.

This past October 16 – right after the passage of “Odile” in our area – I went for a walk at the beach just in front of Hotel Marinaterra’s “Beach Club” in nearby San Carlos; this little beach has a beautiful cove formerly known as “Shangri-La”. The cove has many rocky reefs, a sand-and-pebble rock beach and a beautiful island coveered with giant cactii. I have loved this place since the first time I visited it in 1988 and it always has had an interesting fauna and it is a good place to practice some snorkeling. It pained me to see it this way…

Damage

The first thing that one can appreciate are several large garbage heaps, mainly consisiting of PET (soft drink) plastic bottles and house-hold cleaning containers, all kinds of plastic bag products, footwear (including tennis, shoes and flip flops), car tires, pieces of PVC pipe, pieces of home appliances (TVs, radios, VCRs, etc.).. I even was lucky enough to find a couple of audio tapes! (years without seeing one), assorted garments and accessories (underwear, sunglasses, caps, etc.). And this without considering all the contaminating elements that we can not see, as they would be all kinds of chemicals such as oil derivatives and of cleaning products.

It is really sad to see this display and know that this happens partly because waves are able of destroying whatever they find in front of them, but mainly because rainwater drags all this garbage into the sea. Our sea and our beaches have become an unofficial “Trash Can”.

After watching the huge quantities of garbage I moved on to find some of the innocent victims of this natural phenomenon: Marine Life. Sadly I discovered dozens of different groups of animals, all of them dead. The most easily recognized ones are the fish; I saw moray eels, seahorses, stingrays, puffers, cardinalfish, snappers and croackers. Sad images, but there were even larger quantities of dead invertebrates.

Fan Corals

These typical corals from the sea of Cortez are fished out to satisfy the tourist’s need for a souvenir (please don’t buy these corals, you will encourage their fishery…instead, find them on the beach). These invertegrates are few in numbers and take many years to grow. These primitive animals resemble the old-style “hand-fans” and that is the reason for their common name. That sad day I found hundreds of these corals on the beach, from at least 4 different species, but the most abundant species were: the “Purple coral” and “fire coral”, the latter is one of the most beautiful in our Gulf. And along with these corals I found yet another hapless victim: the “Rainbow Lipped pearl oyster”, which is the species that we grow in our pearl farm here in Guaymas.

Local fishermen know that this species of pearl oyster is commonly found attached on top of these corals, and that is the reason why they have given this species the name of “tree scallop”. Among the corals which I collected on the beach, I found some 15 small rainbow lipped oysters.

Molluscs

Thousands of mollusks died on this beach. I found dozens of different snail species such as Cone shells (Conus), turban snails (Turbo), Conchs (Strombus), and even several varieties of bivalves such as: mussels, clams, scallops and ark shells and black-lipped oysters. Their hard shells had been shattered against rocks when they were ripped from their habitats and then crashed and beaten against the reefs or rocks in the strong surge of waves. Some animals were still alive –but very weak- but most had their shells cracked and shattered. The animals that seemed to have a better survival rate were the Black lip pearl oysters, most of them only had a seemingly polished external shell. However, most seemed damaged beyond any salvation. I did not find a single Octopus, so I assume these critters are quite adept at escaping the wrath of the waves.

The Echinodermata

This is yet another group that suffered great losses… mainly among the starfishes and sea cucumbers. I did not find a single sea urchin, sand dollar nor sea biscuit, but this may only mean that the fragile shells of these organisms were “pulverized” in the violent waves. I collected dozens of starfishes of at least 3 different species on this beach, but the beach was covered by hundreds of these. The Sea cucumbers I found were from an uncommon variety, which is found buried in the sand.

Worms

Most people do not feel any love for marine worms: they are not “nice looking” and some are frankly aggressive and may cause pain. If this group of animals I saw at least 3 different species: several specimens of “fire worms“, a variety of “polychaete worm” that has thousands of cirrii or spines which can deliver an excruciatingly painful toxin to whomever dares touch them. However the most numerous group was that of the sipunculids (“peanut worms”), worms that are found buried in the sand. Some of the worms measured up to 40-50 cm/16-20” long.

Many people will not think much of these innocent victims, because they are not cuddly, don’t have big bright eyes or colorful feather or fluffy fur… but for me all these animals are valuable and “beautiful” in their own way; these creatures fulfill important roles in our ecosystems and make it possible for the perfect functioning of the Gulf of California. If we have any self-esteem, then there is a chance that we will also be able to harbor love for our sea and its creatures… we can demonstrate this love by making a real effort to avoid polluting our seas and beaches, so we do not have them become a “watery landfill”, and we can also do whatever is in our hands to protect these animals directly.

I was recently at a seminar and we had a couple of spectacular speakers there. Almost at the end of the event they told us a story – it could have been real or fictitious, but this is not important – which I would now like to share with you all:

After a stormy night, a man started walking along the beach the very next morning. As the Sun was coming out he discovered that the beach was litered with thousands of Starfish, which at that moment would begin to die from desiccation. He continued walking until he found a youngster who was busy picking up these invertebrates and returning them to the sea. There were thousands upon thousands of starfish, so this effort seemed futile.

The man approached the boy and told him: “Boy, don’t you see that what you are doing does not make any difference? They are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of thousands of starsfish. You will not be able to save them all!”

The child -with a starfish still in his hand – was thoughtful for a moment. He then threw the animal back into the sea and replied to the man: “Well, it may be true, but for those starfish I’ve put back in the sea I have made a huge difference”.

Even if your personal contribution is limited to not polluting and possibly even to telling others to stop polluting… you are doing a very good thing! And if for some reason you decide that you can even help to collect the existing trash then you are doing something even better and making a greater difference!

If you are thinking about extracting/fishing or buying shells or corals from fishermen, I invite you to avoid doing so and to wait to collect those you find on the beaches. Corals, snails and pearl oysters take many years to grow and may disappear from our ocean if we keep doing this, and this leaves us all in a colorless world, a world of less diversity and decreased beauty.

I invite you to be part of those who make the DIFFERENCE and not part of those living in INDIFFERENCE.

Until next time.

Estrellas de Mar en la Playa

The Biggest Cortez Pearl

The BIGGEST Cortez Pearl Ever.

17mm Cortez Baroque PearlOh yes! It happened this year. Finally after years of never seeing a really large Cortez Pearl we had the unique opportunity of harvesting a freakishly giant pearl measuring 17 mm in diameter. This huge dark-gray/purple baroque pearl is uniquely different from previous large Cortez Pearls because:

  • The largest Cortez Pearl was a 14 mm baroque pearl that was not solid. It was a “gas giant pearl” and these pearls are usually filled with a stinky dark liquid (which I fondly call “Pepe” for “Pearl Petroleum”) and do not have a very thick coating of pearl. When the putrid liquid is removed (cleansing the interior with hydrogen peroxide) you are left with a very light and hollow pearl.
  • The largest solid Cortez Pearl was -until this year- a 12 mm near round pearl that was harvested in 2012. The largest nuclei (pearl beads) we employ for the production of a cultured pearl will measure 10 mm, so this large pearl is quite solid with 2 mm of nacre growth (or 1 mm of nacre to each “side”).

So this information –and the one that follows- basically lays down the information needed to hopefully understand what makes this Giant Cortez Pearl special and why it is most unlikely we will ever see another pearl like this in many, many more years. This is truly a one of a kind pearl. Let me explain some basic pointers.

The Pearl Sac

The Rainbow lipped pearl oyster is an animal with a tiny pearl sac. The “pearl sac” is -technically speaking- just a very thin layer or nacre producing cells that grow on top of the pearl (and initially on top of the mother-of-pearl nuclei), but many people refer to this sac as the “general anatomic area” where the pearl is growing. To place this in a context it is like when people refer as that “a baby is growing in a mommy’s tummy” as opposed to stating that “a fetus grows within the uterus”, so I hope you get the idea. So, the pearl sac of this species (the general pearl producing area) is incredibly small. Tiny. Insignificant. To give you an idea of how small it is you can watch a video of the extraction of a pearl from any other variety of pearl oyster and one from the rainbow lip. You will see the big difference!

Let me tell you a story of something that happened to me back in 2012 or 2011…can’t really recall the year. I was at the pearl farm when I was told we had some special visitors. Went up to meet with them and they were a couple of pearl farmers from Tahiti. I will not state their names in public out of respect of their privacy. So, I greeted them and they wanted to see the farm and in the end they requested me to open up an oyster so they could see its shell and anatomy (I could imagine a bit of “technical espionage” there, but no harm can come of something as simple) and when I did…that is when I was amazed! Their reaction was astronomically unique! Their eyes seemed to “pop out” of their heads, a look of utter disbelief painted in their faces and they would look at the animal then at my face then back at the oyster then back at my face and this in a very fast manner! Finally he was able of uttering this phrase: “How…how can you EVEN produce pearls larger than 8 mm!?!?!?!?!”

Pinctada margaritifera vs Pteria sterna

Well, their experience is rooted in the Tahitian Black lip oyster (remember: genus Pinctada) which is not only a much larger sized animal but also it has a very conspicuosly large “pearl sac” in comparisson with the Pteria sterna which has a very tiny and compact “pearl sac” surrounded by the animal’s intestines too. So, from their experience what we were doing producing pearls in sizes between 8 to 12 mm is simply impossible. It took them some time to regain composture, then they left and I have never heard from them again. Not even a postcard.

Nuclei Sizes

BigCortez2Since our rainbow lip oyster has this tiny pearl sac we can only use “small” mother of pearl beads. The smallest sized beads we use are the 6 and 6.5 mm nuclei (our average size when seeding oysters) and we also have other larger sizes, our biggest nuclei being a 10 mm bead. I –personally- very rarely use that size…and since we keep the information on the biggest sized beads we use for every daily operation during the pearl seeding season I can tell you with a 100% degree of certainty that I have been unable to use a bead in this size since 4 years ago.

So, the 12 mm pearl I mentioned before was quite obiously the product of a 9.6 or 10 mm nucleus, but this larger pearl was actually the product of a smaller bead: for that given day of seeding, the largest nucleus I used measured only 9.3 mm. If this particular pearl is the product of such pearl it means that it has a whoping 7.70 mm of nacre around the bead! This is clearly a lot more than the typical coating of 1.5 to 2.3 mm of nacre we see in our Cortez Cultured Pearls.

The photo on the right side displays the large baroque pearl with some “smaller” pearls (8.5 to 9.5 mm in diameter).

Why is this Pearl SO BIG?!?!?

I don’t really know. This is a mistery that only the destruction of the pearl or an advanced pearl analysis may help us understand and I would welcome an offer to analize this pearl before it can be sold or goes into our “Pearl Museum” display.

My only guess is that the pearl producing cells of that rainbow lipped oyster worked under a different metabolic rate, probably in a state of angyiogenesis (similar to what tumor cells do in our bodies, by promoting the growth of blood vessels to feed the tumor and allow it grow), but this is simply my guess.

So, what do you think made this pearl possible??? I leave you with this thought… cheers!

Record Breaking Cortez Pearl Year

This Summer was a record breaking event for two reasons:

  1. We managed to produce our biggest Cortez Pearl harvest ever (finally 4 kilos of pearls).
  2. We harvested the largest Cortez Cultured Pearl Ever.

And both of these record breaking events are quite a feat…but in order to understand why this is important or amazing we will have to analyze the situation. This is what this entry is all about: so you can see why this matters or is of importance. A Sustainable Pearl production is not an easy matter.

Producing Cortez Cultured Pearls.

Back in June -while I was at the Sustainable Pearls forum conference- I was listening to Jacques Christophe Branellec’s (of Jewelmer fame) talk on Sustainable Pearl production in the Phillipines and I vividly remember him showing a PowerPoint slide with a number: 7000. He asked us to see the number and then think about what he way going to reveal about it. He said: “That is the number of Gem quality pearls we harvest every year”. So out of a harvest of several tons of South Sea Pearls, Jacques was stating that only 7 thousand meet the “Gem Quality criterion”. At that moment you come to realize how truly special are these “Gem Grade Pearls”. Wow. They are special indeed…just a small fraction of a pearl harvest.

And at that same moment I started reflecting how truly special my Cortez Pearls are. I am constantly asked about what makes my pearls “special” and I tell people a lot of things: that mine glow red under UV light, that they are guaranteed to never be processed, that they are the only ones grown in the American continent… but I believe it is time to really put this information in a special context so you can understand how truly special they are, specially under the light of the “7000” figure. I hope I can convey my ideas correctly so you can also have a “Wow Moment” with my Cortez Pearls.

So here is the list of things that make these pearls special:

1) The only commercially cultured pearls grown in a Pteria genus pearl oyster: Yes, all other marine cultured pearls are grown in Pinctada genus oysters, this includes the Akoya oyster (Pinctada imbricata), the Silver & Gold lipped oysters (Pinctada maxima) and the Black lip oyster (Pinctada margaritifera). So, just in this respect our pearls are unique because they are the only ones that are being grown in this species of pearl oyster: the Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oyster (Pteria sterna). In a future blog post I will explain why we are still the only producers of this variety of pearl oyster.

Collage-Pinctada-Pteria

2) Unique Fluorescence: This is the only cultured pearl that glows pink to red under long-wave Ultraviolet light, when all other pearls (Akoya, white South Seas and Freshwater pearls) glow blue-green, and others (imitation/fake, artificially colored, black and golden South Sea pearls) don’t display fluorescence under this light. This is a feature that has been discussed in this blog before.

3) Extremely Limited Production: Each year we start with around 100,000 baby oysters (spat) for their use as pearl producing oysters some 24 months later. After all normal mortalities (this is a very delicate oyster) and the selection of only the best oysters for pearl production (both for Mabe & cultured pearls) we are left with some 20-30 thousand oysters that will be useable. We will still have some adittional mortality the next 2 years and we will be able to harvest between 15-23 thousand oysters, with a yield between 2 to 4 kilos of cultured pearls (1 pearl roughly weighs 1 gram = 2 to 4 thousand pearls) and 3 to 6 thousand Mabe pearls. In a nutshell (or is it more appropiate to say: in an oyster shell?) this means that only 4% of our oysters yield a pearl. When I absorbed the “7000” figure from Jacques’ presentation, my mind came up with “200” (yes, not even the “300” Spartans that valiantly fought the entire might of Persia). Only 200 top gem grade pearls every year.

Drop Dead Gorgeous Pearls (4)

4) All Natural Beauty: We have this thing about “pearl enhancing”…we simply don’t like it, so we don’t do it. We don’t bleach the pearls to lighten their color, we don’t dye them, we don’t polish them to make them shiny…we just DON’T PROCESS THEM. I am not against people that do this, but it is simply not our thing and we should be respected for it. For us a pearl is purely beautiful just the way it is. My way of thinking about this issue is like when you have a beauty pageant (not really my thing, but it works for this explanation): imagine that all the women that are in this competition have been “enhanced” by the skills of the best plastic surgeons in the world…are we judging the true physical beauty of the participants…or the skill of their surgeons? You can have it your way but only if you have the option, and we are giving you this option in our Cortez Pearls.

Perlas Cosecha 2007 (29)

So, this is a small list of things that make our Cortez Pearls so special. Some of my friends will say –quite correctly- that this doesn’t make my pearls better than other and they are correct: all pearls are special, all created by Nature, all of them a product of a living entity, and each is unique unto itself. I agree: my pearls are not better…they are simply different from any other pearl in production today.

So these are the facts my friends: no more and no less. Safeguard that “200” figure in your minds just like you may remember those 300 brave Spartan warriors of ancient times.

See you next week, when I will give you the scoop into the largest Cortez Pearl ever!

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