Archive for May, 2010
That’s right, we have already published on the web -thanks to YouTube- our Original video on “Sea of Cortez Pearls.” This was a project we had in mind for several years, but we never had the time to invest in an “original production”. The video reached a good compromise between what we wanted to play on the video, yet we could not achieve such as: we wanted a video clip of a hurricane in action on the pearl farm … but when this happens one usually take refuge, or we wanted ”special clothing” (we could not shoot a troop of “Spanish Conquistadores” trudging through the desert) and, we have not been able of finding a professional narrator (primarily due to time constraints) for the Spanish version of the video… but the English version has superb narration.
Despite being produced in 2008 (it achieved “Gold” status on December of that year) we had the video available only on DVD throughout 2009, and it was until this year that we decided to share it publicly. The video is presented in two parts due to time constraints imposed by YouTube. The first part is a presentation of the Gulf of California Pearl:its lore and History; the second part deals with the commercial cultivation of pearls in Guaymas, Sonora. So, with no more hesitation: we hope you enjoy the video…
UPDATE (APRIL 2011): Well, YouTube has increased the time limits on videos to 15 minutes and now offers HD… so, I have been able to update the video and now you only have to click on it to watch the full version (13 minutes) in Hi-Def. Hope you like it!
We thank all those who participated directly in this beautiful project, specially the staff at “Cheque’s Films”: our good friends Ezekiel “el Cheque” Núñez and Esteban Ibarra (who were in charge of cameras and video editing); the original “Perlas del Mar de Cortez Soundtrack” was the work of Jaime Delgado Avelar, the excellent voice narration by the professional narrator Charlie Bloomer, and photos taken by yet another good friend, Alberto “el Gordo” Tirado. Another couple of good video details provided by our friend Benito Sarmiento (thank you for allowing us to use your videocam and “underwater casing” as well as for lending us your aerial video of Bacochibampo Bay), and finally, the great 3-D work of the “Spanish Galleon” done by Abraham Castro of “Onix” fame. In all, this video was fully made in Guaymas, Sonora.
The script for the video was produced by us (“pearl trio”), in addition to some video footage and photos that we did and incorporated into it.
Additional thanks? Sure! There are many people who we would like to give special thanks, and amongst them we have:
“The Yaqui Diver”/Adrian Amarillas Casillas, our friends Rocio Mendoza and Diana Alvarez, as well as to Karla Valdez, Sergio Farell -our friend and former mentor- the “Tec de Monterrey” for showing faith in our school project and, of course, our group of “Yaqui Workers” led by Jesus “el Pipi” Valenzuela.
I invite you to please leave your comments … I know that in order to leave a comment you are required to use an e-mail account, but for those who do not want to leave a comment because you will “need” to use your e-mail, you can do the following: there is no need to enter a real email … instead use this fake e-mail email@example.com (“copy & paste” and place in the appropriate field) and you will see that it is not necessary to use your personal mail.
See you next week!
Myth #2: The Aquaculture of Pearls in Spain
It is fascinating to meet with people from all over the world, specially if they are seasoned travelers…they always have interesting stories to share with us and we appreciated their talk and sharing of experiences, specially when they have previously visited other pearl farms in Japan, Tahiti or Australia EXCEPT when someone comes up with their “Mallorca Pearl Farm Visit”. The typical description is that they have seen divers retrieving the always perfectly round pearls that seem to come in only 4 basic colors.
Spain is, indeed, a great aquaculture producer…but its main products revolve around edible shellfish production: scallops, mussels and edible oysters. These species of bivalves are usually produced in the northern part of Spain, on the coastline of Galicia, where they grow three very tasty and valuable species: the Mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), the “Vieira” or Queen scallop (Pecten maximus) and the european rock oyster (Ostrea edulis). But none of these species are able of producing nacreous pearls (they would produce “calcium concretions” or “non-nacreous pearls“) so they cannot look like the “Mallorca Pearl”. Let us look into this more closely then…
The so called production of these famous “european pearls” is found in the city of Manacor, Spain, and… where is this place??? It is a beautiful spot in the Mediterranean Sea (see map, courtesy of Google Earth), an area that has not been known or recognized -not today nor in ancient times- as a great pearl producer. Also, take note that Manacor is on an island…but not right next to the sea but some kilometer away from it. This can only mean then that the pearls and their oysters are being grown in special ponds or lakes or maybe even in rivers… but examining the city with Google Maps or any similar program will not reveal any evidence of large lakes/ponds suitable for a grand scale production of pearl oysters nor mussels.
Very well then… they must grow the pearls and their oysters in the ocean and haul them into the city as needed. What variety of pearl oyster could they use to produce their pearls? Let us do a bit of research…hmm, we seem to find very few sources that include information on pearl fisheries -past and present- inside the Mediterranean Sea. Let us use Sohei Shirahi’s excellent book “Pearls & Pearl Oysters of the World” and let us see…weird… no pearl oysters reported in that area of the Mediterranean. The only information we find is that from another great book -actually a “grand classic” on the subject- Kunz and Stevenson’s (1908) “The Book of the Pearl” which cites that a man by the last name of Vassel states that in 1896 , the “Akoya Pearl Oyster” (Pinctada imbricata) made its way into the Mediterranean by way of the Suez Canal and can now be found in limited areas of Tunisia, North Africa. Yet, there is another pearl oyster in the region: the “Mediterranean Winged Oyster” (Pteria hirundo) which can be found in Turkey and Italy. There is not a single report of these species for the Spanish island of Mallorca. The following map can give us a clearer idea of the worldwide distribution of pearl oysters (based on Shirai, 1994).
Well then, if there are NO pearl oysters nor pearly mussels in Spain nor in its island of Majorca… what gave rise to this myth? It is hard to know, but we all know how half-truths have an easy way of propagating… like summer grass on fire. It is a fact that the Spaniards have always stated that their so-called “pearls” are just as beautiful -or better- than their cultured pearl counterparts, or even state that their product is manufactured using “marine materials” but I have never seen an advertisement or article that states that they “grow” their pearls inside living oysters. But some people are…that is for sure. For what reason or to what ends? You can be the judge. So, let us go to an “official” “Majorca Pearls” website, from where I extracted the following text:
“Majorca pearls are imitation pearls manufactured on the Spanish island of Majorca in the Mediterranean. Local women there have specialized in the artistic fabrication of faux pearls since the 19th Century. These pearls have such a resemblance to the natural cultivated pearls that only experts can tell them apart.”
That last part about only experts being able to tell them apart is a hoax (in future posts we will try to help you identify all sorts of pearls, including fakes…which are very easy).
But for now I believe that it is quite clear that these imitations or “faux perles” are not grown from live organisms, but a product of Human manufacture. But, for those that will still believe otherwise… I have -for the first time on the Internet- a perfectly preserved specimen of the very elusive “Majorcan Pearl Oyster” (scientifically named: Plasticus artifactus). The specimen can be admired at our Museum-like display at the Pearl-Shop in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico… so stop for a visit, don’t miss on this unique opportunity!
If you have questions or an interesting subject to suggest, please feel free to make your comments known on this Blog…see you in a couple of weeks!
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to review CIBJO‘s new Pearl book (also known as the “Blue Book”). For those not familiar with this “famous” book or who CIBJO is, let me present this information in a simple way: CIBJO is an international confederation of national jewelery trade organizations, and amongst the many services they provide the offer guidance (guidelines) on how to refer to when you sell or market a product that falls into their umbrella: mainly gems and jewelery. Stated in another way, a jeweler might use these CIBJO guidelines to sell his products in the most honest/honorable way possible. It can also be used by the client to demand more information on the product of interest. Unfortunately, the most common issue is that both client and vendor are unaware of this valuable source of information, or what is worse: that the jeweler/seller exploits the ignorance of the customer to achieve a fraudulent sale.
The fraudulent sale of gems of all kinds, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, is more common in developing countries, and this is partly due to low awareness among the general population about the characteristics and attributes of gemstones which they seek to acquire. To this we add the greed factor of many and/or their total ignorance and/or the fact that they too were “ripped off” and so we end up inside a great well of unease and distrust. Not one, nor two … but dozens of times we have witnessed some deception and fraud in jewelry sales, and for us -pearl producers and jewelry makers- this issue becomes more sensitive in cases involving pearls.
For this reason, and to celebrate the publication of the new CIBJO-Blue Book: Pearls (this link allows you to download the PDF file directly from CIBJO) we will discuss about the various “myths” that allow for the deception and fraud in the purchase or acquisition of pearl jewelry. We hope that this series will indulge to your liking… even to your dislike (some will end up with a terrible feeling after reading these series of articles), but my hope is that this will help you to avoid a terrible mistake or being cheated and deceived. So, let’s start with this series of “myths” …
Myth # 1: “Majorca Pearls”
This is probably the most common myth or fraud of which we are known. How many times have we had a visit from a proud owner of a double-string necklace of “Majorca Pearls”? Countless times. How many times have we been told how when they visited the island of Mallorca, Spain, they even had a chance of visiting the “pearl farm” and could see how the oysters were stripped of their beautiful “pearls”? Again: countless … and how many times have we had to repeat that “Mallorca pearls” are just false, simulated or imitation pearls or -isn’t French just great at making things sound so romantic?- “Faux Perles“? Untold times. In fact, my favorite phrase is: “The only part of a ‘Majorca Pearl’ that is truly Pearl can be found in its trade name” (McLaurin dixit).
But hey! Don’t take my word for it, but instead… use the CIBJO Pearl Book and just go to page # 6 in paragraph 4.4.4 entitled “Imitation or Simulated”, and it unmistakeably identifies them as fake pearls. There, clearly mentioned, are the brand names of the most common imitation pearls, and it states how you may not use these to deceive a customer and -in this particular case- they HAVE TO BE described as follows: “Imitation Majorica Pearls”. So we have have an international authority that confirms that these famous “pearls” are simply … imitations. And this in itself is no problem unless you are told that if they are either natural or cultured pearls: then it is FRAUD.
How could the problem have started? In most cases -such as in department stores- the person in charge of selling the items does not have the foggiest idea of what they are actually selling: they have been equally trained to sell diapers and jewelry -in the best parrot-like way- but they have been told what to say from others that don’t know a thing about pearls. But this does not exempt them from fraud … and it does not matter if the jewelry item (be it a necklace or bracelet or earrings) came with a certificate of authenticity: a review of its text will inform you that they are not real pearls, but most of the time it will employ such verbiage “semi-cultivated pearls” or “Made using Marine materials”. This will be discussed in more detail in the coming weeks.