Archive for the 'Pearl Harvests' Category
We are still caught in the middle of the 2012 Pearl Harvest, so I have been too busy to post these last weeks: it has been a most interesting summer! Not only do we have the harvest, but we had the chance to have some very special guests here at the farm in what has been called a “Cortez Pearl Safari”.
This event was coordinated from Mexico City’s by GIA accredited gemologist Diana Benoit-Seegrove (Director of the “Instituto Geológico y de Alta Relojería de México, A.C.) . So, at the start of the month of June we had some 26 visitors at the farm, who visited us for two days, in order to:
- Harvest Pearls!
- Learn about the History of the Gulf of California pearl
- Pearl Quality & Grading
- Shop for Cortez Pearls
Our special guests were treated in full V.I.P. fashion: the choiciest oysters for harvesting, a trip to the pearl farm, they even had the chance of performing the solemn yearly “Pearl Offering” (when we basically dispose of all the pearls that did not attain our quality standards), they were offered delicious pearl-scallop delicacies as well (ceviche & aguachile) made from the delicious meat of the “Rainbow Lipped” pearl oyster.
This event was a tremendous success and had to be repeated just one week ago with a different, smaller, group of talented designers and jewelry owners.
Does this sound interesting to you? Would you like to participate in next year’s “Cortez Pearl Safari”? Just give us a call and we’ll find a way to fit you in.
I Finally I have the data from this year’s pearl harvest and it is a positive report but not a spectacular one. As it has happened for several ongoing years, environmental changes -possibly caused by global warming and other natural processes- have directly affected the outcome of our pearl harvest. This year was no exception since 4 years ago we had a very poor “spat collecting” season of "Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oysters" (Pteria sterna), which did not allow us to have an adequate amount of mature (2 year old) pearl oysters to “nucleate” or “implant” two years ago (2009) and the amount of pearls we obtained was of only 1.7 kg when our goal is to reach 4 kilos (roughly: 4,000 pearls)
However, the number of nucleated oysters would have given us only 1 kilo of pearls this year, but thanks to improvements in our nucleation technique we were able to achieve a 70% higher amount of pearls, and the colors and quality of the pearls were truly good. I will now proceed to to review each type of pearl produced this year in our Bacochibampo Bay Pearl Farm… We harvested 1,783 cultured pearls with an average size of 9.0 mm (in diameter), the smaller size of the pearls was 8.3 mm and was larger at 12.9 mm. The predominant shapes were baroque (asymmetrical), followed by semi-baroque pearls (symmetric) and with a small minority (2%) of round and near-round shapes. In the next photo we can see the two plastic bags on which the entire 2011 crop is placed until the time comes for its separation by size, shape and quality (pearl grading). I proceeded to "liberate" the pearls to appreciate their shapes, colors and sizes… And these from bag # 2… I also “cherry picked” some pearls that had something that made them all the more strikingly beautiful or unusual and these are some pictures of these pearls: However, these are not the only beautiful pearls, their colors are just much more intense, but these are other rare gems: Now for the next sub-topic within the crop: the production of Mabe Pearls or “Half-Pearls”. This kind of pearl is “harvested” (extracted) from the shell of the oysters and -unlike loose pearls- they must be processed before being sold. In fact, this entire process is quite elaborate and I want to explain it in detail in a future Blog entry. I hope I can do this by September, as I am preparing a video of the process as well. Since I am going to explain this in the near future, I will avoid going into much detail, but each pearl oyster has the potential to produce up to 3 Mabe(some rare ones up to 4), but we consider that only 50% of the extracted Mabe pearls will have the right quality to become a "Cortez Mabe"; what about the remaining pearls?… they will visit the mermaids (cast into the water’s depths). Why? Because we will simply not sell "junk pearls" to our customers and our pearls are guaranteed for life: we just don’t want people coming back to exchange a defective product, we want them to come back for more beautiful & enduring gems. How many Mabe pearls did we harvest this year? According to harvest data we obtained 6,158 “raw” (or “in the shell”) pearls… from which we will further inspect and will end up with only 3,000 pieces of varying qualities: from "B" to "AAA" grades, and possibly some 6 “U” grade Mabe pearls. Once mounted in jewelry, mabe pearls take on a completely different look … The natural pearl harvest this year was quite low, barely reaching 3 pearls with a size of at least 5 mm in diameter. This is a good number, considering that the norm in nature is of just 1 such natural pearl per every 10,000 pearl oysters. Keshi pearls -a type of cultured pearl- were also very scarce, with an output of just 33 grams. I hereby terminate this report of the Cortez Pearl Harvest of 2011. The next blog post will be up by mid-September and will have information about the third edition of the "Pearl Ruckus" organized by Jeremy Shepperd (of “Pearl-Paradise.com” fame) which took place in Hollywood, California.
These are from bag # 1…
Keshi Pearls and Natural Pearls
Until next time!
However, the number of nucleated oysters would have given us only 1 kilo of pearls this year, but thanks to improvements in our nucleation technique we were able to achieve a 70% higher amount of pearls, and the colors and quality of the pearls were truly good.
I will now proceed to to review each type of pearl produced this year in our Bacochibampo Bay Pearl Farm…
We harvested 1,783 cultured pearls with an average size of 9.0 mm (in diameter), the smaller size of the pearls was 8.3 mm and was larger at 12.9 mm. The predominant shapes were baroque (asymmetrical), followed by semi-baroque pearls (symmetric) and with a small minority (2%) of round and near-round shapes.
In the next photo we can see the two plastic bags on which the entire 2011 crop is placed until the time comes for its separation by size, shape and quality (pearl grading).
I proceeded to "liberate" the pearls to appreciate their shapes, colors and sizes…
And these from bag # 2… I also “cherry picked” some pearls that had something that made them all the more strikingly beautiful or unusual and these are some pictures of these pearls:
However, these are not the only beautiful pearls, their colors are just much more intense, but these are other rare gems:
Now for the next sub-topic within the crop: the production of Mabe Pearls or “Half-Pearls”.
This kind of pearl is “harvested” (extracted) from the shell of the oysters and -unlike loose pearls- they must be processed before being sold. In fact, this entire process is quite elaborate and I want to explain it in detail in a future Blog entry. I hope I can do this by September, as I am preparing a video of the process as well.
Since I am going to explain this in the near future, I will avoid going into much detail, but each pearl oyster has the potential to produce up to 3 Mabe(some rare ones up to 4), but we consider that only 50% of the extracted Mabe pearls will have the right quality to become a "Cortez Mabe"; what about the remaining pearls?… they will visit the mermaids (cast into the water’s depths). Why? Because we will simply not sell "junk pearls" to our customers and our pearls are guaranteed for life: we just don’t want people coming back to exchange a defective product, we want them to come back for more beautiful & enduring gems.
How many Mabe pearls did we harvest this year? According to harvest data we obtained 6,158 “raw” (or “in the shell”) pearls… from which we will further inspect and will end up with only 3,000 pieces of varying qualities: from "B" to "AAA" grades, and possibly some 6 “U” grade Mabe pearls.
Once mounted in jewelry, mabe pearls take on a completely different look …
The natural pearl harvest this year was quite low, barely reaching 3 pearls with a size of at least 5 mm in diameter. This is a good number, considering that the norm in nature is of just 1 such natural pearl per every 10,000 pearl oysters.
Keshi pearls -a type of cultured pearl- were also very scarce, with an output of just 33 grams.
I hereby terminate this report of the Cortez Pearl Harvest of 2011.
The next blog post will be up by mid-September and will have information about the third edition of the "Pearl Ruckus" organized by Jeremy Shepperd (of “Pearl-Paradise.com” fame) which took place in Hollywood, California.
There are few moments as exciting to a Pearl Farmer as that of the time to harvest his pearls. This means the culmination of 4 years of taking care of your pearl oysters, years of worries caused by natural phenomena (the "Niño" and "Niña" years, as well as from hurricanes and tropical storms) or human causes. It is at this moment when we can take a deep breath and feel our pressure lowering in relief, only to be replaced by heavy-breathing and an increased heart-rate, but this time caused by the hope of finding that pearl that John Steinbeck referred to as the "Pearl of the World", as described in his novel “The Pearl”, that huge, beautiful & flawless pearl that Kino finds after years of pearl fishing.
And apparently, we are not alone in expecting such a yearly precious event –since it only takes place during the month of June- because this year we were truly honored to be visited by the great German gemologist Elisabeth Strack, author of a book that is considered –by most- as "The Bible of Pearls”, a book for all lovers of this amazing organic gem: "Perlen" (in German) or "Pearls" (in English). Unfortunately there are no editions in other languages, but this is an awesome book that has a great quantity and quality of information about all types of pearls.
And, at this point I don’t know if I can say if you do not say whether Elisabeth had bad or good luck -it will depend on her personal opinion- during her second visit to our pearl farm, because she arrived on the first day of June, and at that time we also had the visit of Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, in Guaymas; this due to the fact we were also celebrating the “Day of the Navy”, so she had the chance to see a whole array of sailors, armored vehicles, navy helicopters and warships in Guaymas. Regardless of her opinion, she did bring us "good luck", as this year’s pearl harvest seems as it will become the best of our history, at least in color and beauty of the harvested pearls.
Elisabeth Strack visited us because she has been working on her book’s second edition, and updated data and information is much required and this cannot be gathered just by hearsay. When at the first day of harvest with us, she noticed that some of the colors on our pearls just seemed to be impossible: because she just could not believe some of the colors she was seeing… even when she saw the pearls just coming out of our pearl oysters. And I assume that is a normal reaction for people who have seen pearl harvests in other types of pearl oysters, such as those from the Pinctada genus, or from pearly-mussels (Family Unionidae), but this was her first time watching cultured and natural pearls come out from our "Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna). This incredible color saturation is observed even in the shells of this year’s oysters.
Cortez Pearl Harvest 2011
And I was wondering if you’ve seen how pearls are harvested here in Guaymas? We have several videos available on YouTube, but this is probably my favorite from the 2009 harvest:
And mentioned that Elisabeth was amazed with the natural colors of our pearls as it is rare to find such a variety of colors on a single crop in just one location. The "black pearl" of French Polynesia are mainly dark, but each atoll can produce a certain range of colors. Here in Guaymas we have been blessed with every imaginable body-color and overtones on our pearls. And as a sampler we have some photos…
On the photo above, a beautiful dark purple pearl, with three pearl behind it: one green, a “red” one and a blue colored one.
A couple more photos, now one with our so called “Yori” or “white pearls”, always displaying green and pink overtones.
And I must make it very clear that the pearls came out with the colors you are seeing, they were not processed in any way: not polished (to improve their luster or "make them shiny"), there were not "bleached" chemically to make them white, nor stained/dyed to darken them. They are simply the result of an amazing natural pigmentation process.
These pearls belong to the group of “Green” pearls, but our “green pearls” are very different from the typical Tahitian "green” pearl because Cortez Pearls tend to be brighter, not the “dark-black” color. Our greens also mix with other colors, making them uniquely different.
These last pearls have a reddish body color (violet) with green overtones, leaning towards the “Peacock” color of Tahitian Pearls but not exactly…they are also unique. It seems that this year this Red color will be rather generous. The "red pearls" or "Cranberry” are incredibly rare, so most of those seen for sale have an artificial color (and you can tell it is), but here in Guaymas we are fortunate enough to produce a dozen or so with this “cranberry” color per year.
And Elisabeth returned to Germany, but before she did she also updated her knowledge on Authentic Mexican-Sonoran Food (unlike the variety they serve in Germany), allowing her taste buds to indulge in the sinful dishes served at our favorite restaurant ("Los Arbolitos de Cajeme"): a “tower” of fresh sea-scallops, fresh tomatoes and avocado slices with some spicy olive-oil dressing, shrimp and smoked-marlin “Toritos” (Banana Peppers filled with these delicacies), a fresh crab meat “tostada”, a savory seafood “machaca” (made with finely minced squid, shrimp and scallops) and an extravagant fish fillet covered with a hot cactus, onion and pepper topping… I surely hope that Elisabeth will have additional reasons to return next year to Guaymas.
I hope this entry about the 2011 Cortez Pearl harvest was of interest to you. I will eventually write-up this year’s harvest’s full information (quantity of harvested pearls, size of harvested pearls, shapes, colors, qualities, etc.) since we still have 30% of the harvest yet to reap and we are still hopeful, as we are every year, to find the "Pearl of the World .
Until next time…
We now commence a new blog-delivery with a new subject: pearl quality. How can we view this from the client’s standpoint? Let us ask the following questions: Why should it should I pay more for higher quality? What do I get in exchange?
And the answer should be clear and concise: quality gives you value and beauty. In the case of gems this should be of real importance, because these products must keep their beauty and their value in 5 or 10 or 200 years. A gem that loses its beauty also loses its value
How can we measure pearl quality? That is a very interesting question and one we hope to be able to answer in an easy and precise manner. In the meantime, we will tell you about a critical indicator of pearl quality: nacre thickness and we will see why this indicator is this so important. But first let us begin this post with a couple of stories…
A Life Investment
For millennia, human beings have purchased precious stones and metals, as well as jewelry and ornaments – made with these materials- for their personal use and enjoyment. Jewelry items are not only used as adornments or to establish “status” amongst people; they can also serve as a manner of “safe-guard” in moments of crisis. As an example, in many countries women adorn themselves with lots of jewelry and this can be of a great advantage at times: imagine that at moments of social unrest or economic struggle, that a family has to flee for their lives, keeping only what the family is wearing? Of course, you may own a pair of fancy tennis shoes, but that will not be enough to feed the family or pay a ransom, but your mother’s jewelry may be enough to help the family get on its feet again. Of course there’s also the question of quality: it would be better to possess a single high-quality –valuable- item, than 20 kilos of costume jewelry (it will not even allow you to run faster). Under this logic let us examine a relatively well documented case.
On October 1917 -during the Russian revolution- the new Bolshevik government began arresting all Russian nobility. This meant that the aristocrats fled their country, leaving behind their palaces, land, clothes and furniture, keeping with them only those items which had great value and were easily carried and hidden. Amongst these Russian nobleman was Prince Alexander Yousopoff (better known for his part in the assassination of Rasputin) who fled to Paris with some family jewels. Amongst his most precious treasure he had a pearl necklace (that some assumed had many Sea of Cortez pearls, due to the voracity Russian nobility had for fine pearls) that might have belonged to his mother, Princess Zenaida Youssopova. During his final stay in France, his economic problems became greater and finally –in 1922- he decided to sell this pearl necklace (it might be the one that appears in his mother’s portrait, although without the famous “La Regente” pearl, also known as “Napoleón’s Pearl”, because this pearl has its own unique story). The sale was done by prestigious jeweler Pierre Cartier, who was able to sell the pearl strand to a rich American heiress at a value of $400,000 U.S. dollars.
To be honest with you all, this story might have some contradicting leads (which I believe just adds a detectivesque flavor to it) and you may want to dig deeper into the story…just like treasure hunting. Some -like this reference- lead us to think that the pearl necklace might have originally belonged to Catherine “The Great” of Russia, but the necklace could’ve been part of the Imperial Russian treasury, although it is said but the jewelry was found by the Bolsheviks, hidden within a wall in one of the imperial palaces of the Romanov dynasty. In order to have a more coherent story we are using the information found in the “Cortez Pearl” website as valid.
Nacre thickness and pearl quality
For us, one of the main attributes to take into consideration is nacre thickness. To understand what this is all about, we can ask the following question: How much of your pearl is really pearl? Let us analyze this.
Most marine –or salt-water- cultured pearls are produced by the introduction of a small shell-bead -by means of a special surgery- inside the pearl oyster’s body, and over a length of time –the culture period- the little bead will become coated by millions of thin nacre layers, deposited one over the other (in the likeness of an onion) until the pearl is harvested. Under a short culture period (4 to 8 months) the pearl will have a thin nacre coating, but under a longer culture cycle (18 to 24 months) they will possess an excellent nacre coating.
- X-Rays: these are used to observe the shell bead within the pearl, and we can also measure the pearl’s nacreous thickness. This is a method that is employed by many pearl producing countries, such as Tahiti.
- Cutting the pearls in half: we select a sample of pearls that will be cut in half to analyze their nacre thickness. This is the best method to determine nacre thickness…but it might be a bit destructive for most people.
- Inspection of the drill hole: this is a difficult method to use and that will not ensure you of the pearl’s nacre thickness, but it does help to identify pearls with a thin nacre coating.
Additionally, we have indirect methods that may be utilized by different pearl farmers. We utilize a simple technique which provides us with very good information regarding nacre thickness: we utilize a group of control oysters in wish we only insert shell beads with a single size. Thus at the end of the culture period, we can measure the harvested pearls and determine their nacre thickness by means of the size difference between the shell bead and the resulting pearl (if we use a 6 mm shell-bead or nucleus, at the moment of harvest the pearls will at least measure 8.2 mm), but we can also gauge both the maximum and minimum nacre thickness in a given lot of pearls. Utilizing a combination of these methods we can feel assured of the nacre quality of our cultured pearls.
Harvest 2010- Nacre Thickness
We feel are grateful for this year’s harvest especially with the resultant nacre thickness, which was excellent. The range we consider typical of a Cortez Pearl is a minimum of 0.8 mm, with an average thickness of 1.2 mm and, in a rare occasions, exceeding 2.2 mm. With this nacre thickness, Sea of Cortez pearls are just as good –and sometimes better- as most South Sea pearls in the market today.
In the image above you can appreciate the nacre thickness of a group of pearls that was cut in half to evaluate their nacreous coating. Those with a thinner coating (left side) have a thickness of 0.9 mm, the average ones (central portion) measure 1.5 mm and the thicker ones (on the right side) may even reach up to 2.8 mm (in all instances I am just mentioning the thickness on one of the pearl’s sides, as seen in the following photo).
Sea of Cortez pearls: Our guarantee
A thick nacre coating means that the pearl has what it takes to display good natural luster -thus it will not be necessary to polish it- and for the pearl to have durability -to endure the passage of time- and to become a family heirloom. On the other hand a pearl with a thin nacre coating will seem dull and unappealing –unless the pearl is polished- lacking real beauty and devoid of orient, it will not be durable and can easily peel and crack.
The pearl we produce is guaranteed for life against natural defects if the pearl suffers any damage (not due to the wearer), then this pearl will be replaced by another one of the same quality for value. In most instances, any damage from the pearl is caused by the wearer such as scratches, damage caused by jewelers, and –sometimes-even being run over by a car, but these are exceptional cases.
If we take into consideration that a thinly coated pearl can have a “useful life” of only a few months to perhaps a couple of years, then a pearl with a value of $10.00 U.S. dollars becomes an expensive product:
- $10.00 divided by 8 months = $1.25 per month
- $10.00 divided by 24 months = 42¢ per month
But if the pearl has a thick nacre coating, then it has the potential of a long, useful life, well in the range of hundreds of years; but since this is something really hard to estimate, let us say that with a lifetime guarantee we are at least talking about 80 years. Thus if we have a pearl valued at $1,000 USD we are talking about a good price:
- $1,000 divided by 80 years = $12.50 per year = $1.04 per month
So, you get the idea: quality pearls actually give you more of everything. And, now let us go back to our question of “why should we be interested in a pearl’s quality?” but now analyzing it from the viewpoint of the pearl producer: Why should we invest more time to in order to obtain a higher quality pearl? What do we receive in exchange? The main thing you obtain is prestige to a proven quality and second: it’s a matter of personal pride (you can actually feel good about what you are doing).
Investing in quality is well worth it. In the future, we will continue to talk about other aspects of pearl quality.
With great pleasure and satisfaction we announce the presentation of three pearl necklaces for the year 2010. As with all previous pearl necklaces that have been produced in Mexico since our pearl farm started operations, these necklaces are made using pearls from several crops or pearl-harvests; for these 3 necklaces, we have used pearls from the 2010, 2009, 2008 and even 2007 crops. You need extreme patience in order to produce a good string of pearls.
What makes these necklaces so special? Well, they consist of pearls produced in Mexico’s Gulf of California, a region known worldwide for its pearls, and these are cultured using a limited-production (4 kilos) scheme, these are the only cultured pearls that are produced under the “Fair Trade Gems” standards, the only cultured pearls that are produced using a “winged pearl oyster”: the “Rainbow-Lip Pearl Oyster“ or Pteria sterna, thus they are the rarest cultured pearls produced in the world and they also display a pink-red fluorescence under long wave UV rays, and are some of the very few cultured pearls that do not receive any “embellishing” treatments (physical nor chemical) … there are many more things to say about how special these pearls are, but this is just to lay the basics.
What we now need to do is present these three strings of pearls from the 2010 edition:
Necklace 2010 – A
This one consists of a graduated necklace with a length of 20″ (50.8 cm), made with 49 baroque pearls with a size (diameter) of between 8.0 and 8.7 mm, using “B” grade “Cortez Pearls” (“B” grade means that there are skin imperfections on the pearl and that its luster is not very high), the central pearl measure 8.7 x 9.1 mm . However, with its light gray color, unique shapes and its iridescent pearls makes it a truly exceptional piece. It has a simple yellow 18 K gold brooch.
This is an excellent pearl necklace when you consider its price:benefit. It is a baroque pearl necklace, but these pearls are soft baroques (not by human action), in short, although these pearls are asymmetrical shaped they posses very soft shapes that are almost spherical in appearance, thus they look “round” from a certain distance. It is quite uncommon for our Gulf of California cultured pearls to have a perfectly round shape (the reasons will be explained in a future post), thus our spherical shapes attain a far greater value than that of the most common shape: the asymmetric or baroque shapes-so this necklace achieves a relative low cost with great looks or “more bang for your bucks”.
This graduated multicolored 19″ (48.26 cm) pearl necklace consists of 51 baroque pearls with a size between 8.0 & 8.6 mm (diameter) and made with “A” and “A+” grade pearls (this means very good natural luster and a clean pearl surface) of exceptional colors. The result is a rainbow-like necklace with red, green, blue gray, black and purple pearls … As with the previous necklace, it features a plain 18K yellow gold brooch.
Special Edition “Bicentennial” 2010 Pearl Necklace
This is a truly a unique Cortez Pearl necklace, a piece of jewelry fit for a Queen and truly something that very few can own. We’ve placed this necklace at the same level of delicacy -for want of a better word- as some of our finest necklaces such as “Stella Maris” (2009) and “Bohéme” (2008). The central pearl is a gorgeous purple pearl (11.6 mm) with incredible green overtones (obtained from the 2010 harvest).
This 19″ (48 cm) graduated multi-colored pearl necklace consists of 49 near-round Sea of Cortez Cultured Pearls with sizes between 8.7 and 11.6 mm (diameter), and was made using the only “A+” and “Gem” grade pearls, featuring the most intensely colored pearls available, the highest natural luster and the best surface (“skin”) purity possible using only non-treated pearls. This necklace does not include a clasp, since the buyer usually acquires a specially made clasp for such a unique piece.
So far we have named this necklace as “Bicentennial” (Mexico turns 200 years old as an Independent country this year) but this name will be changed by the owner: in the purest pearling tradition these unique necklaces are named or are “christened” in the manner of other famous necklaces or Pearls of old. In today’s world, the vast majority of necklaces produced do not even deserve a nickname… but high quality pearls with a limited production are still worthy of this distinction.
Where are the other Cortez Pearl Necklaces?
Since our Bacochibampo Bay farm started producing loose cultured pearls in the year 2000, we have only managed to produce eight special pearl necklaces -with characteristics similar to those of the “Bicentennial” necklace- and we have always wanted for these to remain in Mexico, but this has not always been possible. So where are these necklaces? Here’s the list:
- 3 necklaces in Mexico, including the three most perfect and beautiful: “Stella Maris”, “Bohéme” and “Balandra.”
- 2 in the United States of America (“Maria” and “Isabella”)
- 1 in Italy
- 1 in New Zealand
Understandably, the owners remain anonymous. In the case of “Bohéme” it had the distinction of appearing in the book “Pearls” by gemologists Hubert Bari and David Lam, a book where the authors state (on page 86) the following about the “Sea of Cortez Pearl”: “It is perhaps the most beautiful pearl to have been cultured up to now” (Hubert Bari & David Lam. 2010. Pearls. Skira . Italy. 336 pages).
Where will the “Bicentennial” spend its Time? What will be its final name? That will be known soon …so, stay tuned!
Natural Pearls…this small phrase can mean different things depending on which portion of the food chain you are located in, so it can either mean utter nacreous ecstasy or feverish anger. Whatever your feelings are, every year we have the fortune of finding a few natural pearls within our farm-raised “Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oysters” (Pteria sterna). This quantity varies tremendously depending on environmental conditions (although some people have gone far to suggest that this depends solely on the actions and decisions taken by certain Political Party members…but no, it is certainly not the case) and the way these conditions become more propitious for the development of certain bio-elements (just a fancy word for “little water bugs”) that are normally found in our oceans.
For us, 2007 was an astounding year in Natural Pearl production, whereas 2008 & 2009 were not very productive in yield, but we did find a couple of very exceptional pearls (see “The Virgin’s Pearl” account of this same Blog). This year seems to be more similar to 2007 in pearl yield and quality.
So, before we proceed with the data from this year’s natural pearl harvest, let us watch a short video on natural pearl harvesting (taken from the 2007 natural pearl harvest):
If you paid close attention to the video, you will have noticed that all natural pearls were found inside a thin, semi-translucent membrane that was attached to the oyster’s mantle. This membrane is known as the “pearl sac” and it is where the pearl develops…in the same way a baby would develop inside a womb. A similar “pearl sac” is formed to produce a cultured pearl, but in this case the pearl sac develops inside the oyster’s gonad and due to Human intervention. Thus, when we find a natural pearl it is quite a surprise (similar to when you are told your wife is expecting twins…trust me on this), there is no Human intervention in their production. To notice the differences between the harvest of natural pearls (the video above) and that of cultured pearls you can now watch this other video:
Now that you have seen both videos you can realize how differently these pearls come to see the light of day or are “born unto the world”. Another significant difference between natural and cultured pearls is their size: most naturals we obtain are in a size range between 1 to 7 mm, whereas the smallest cultured pearls we obtain measure 8.3 mm in diameter. But perhaps the most striking difference would be quantity: you always obtain many more cultured pearls than natural pearls.
In a future post we will talk more in detail about how natural pearls are produced: their incidence, what causes them to appear (a grain of sand of course!!! sure…maybe it was a politician that came up with such an answer), but for the moment I just want to post some photos of some of this year’s natural pearls…let us begin!
This “cute” little natural pearl has quite some personality. Measuring 1 cm at its widest, it has the shape of a toon-like tortoise, complete with a little eye.
It is not the prettiest natural pearl we’ve harvested here, but it now belongs into a select group of “unconventional” pearls we’ve found, such as: doves, cats, hearts, aliens (pretty certain it was a so called “Gray“) and the “American Classic”: Mickey Mouse.
The next pearls are much more beautiful, but more “pearl shaped”, and by this I don’t mean “round”. Very few natural pearls we’ve harvested (out of hundreds in our 16+ years of work) have been perfectly round, and those that have this shape are usually very small (less than 2 mm).
Now we have a pair of “good sized” (7 mm diameter) baroque shaped natural pearls, slightly flattened (something quite normal in natural pearls). Their main color is dark so they would be considered “black pearls”…a term that I don’t particularly like because the Gulf of California Pearl is much more colorful. The one to the right has a red-wine coloration (probably Pinot Noir) and the one to the left has a blue-green-violet coloration.
Now, we have a pair of pearl trios. The first one in sizes around 5 mm in diameter, but I believe they are even more beautiful than the larger ones: truly a case of “Bigger is not necessarily more Beautiful”. And the following trio (in sizes of 3 mm) are even more striking: some pearls even display the much coveted and desired “Fish Eye” effect.
These little pearls have very strong overtones, the one in the center having the most intense “fish eye” effect.
And to wrap it up for today…a beautiful pair of 8 mm natural pearls with very different colors: one is light gray with a strong violet overtone, the other one has a dark electric-blue coloration. One reason why pearls were known as “Unios” in the Latin language of Ancient Romans is because they were clearly unique, distinctive. These natural pearls are truly deserving of such name…but their Gulf of California Cultured Pearl counterparts are just as unique as their famous predecessor…you will not find any “Clonios” around here.
It is finally here…that special moment that takes place only once every year here at our Pearl Farm: the HARVEST. This year we expect to have a lower yield of pearls in comparison with last year’s, but we believe this harvest will be more beautiful than 2009′s.
All these pearls will be harvested from our Pearl Farm in Bacochibampo Bay, Guaymas, Sonora, México, in the central portion of the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez. The pearls we produce are exclusively grown in one of our native pearl oysters: the “Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna). I want to use this opportunity to clearly state that WE DO NOT PRODUCE pearls using the local “Black Lip Pearl Oyster” (Pinctada mazatlanica), because there are some “experts” that say we do, but we don’t. You can use a nifty UV light to see how our pearls glow pink-red, an attribute of pearls produced from the “Rainbow Lipped Oyster”.
Some interesting facts about this harvest is that we will -apparently- have softer and rounder shapes, with a very thick coating of nacre. As an example: we obtained a 13.7 mm (diameter) pearl, and we know -for sure- that the largest bead employed that day measured 9.5 mm in diameter…thus we know it has a 4.2 mm thick coating, or 2.1 mm per side which is what you would expect out of a good South Sea Pearl.
Colors this year seem to be more on the Lighter side…mostly light grays, but the colorful pearls are very colorful and intense, as you will notice on the photo below:
The next photo displays some of our light colored pearls, but when they have baroque shapes they will display very intense iridescence.
The intense colored pearls are coming out in stunning shapes and with great overtones…
Finally, a selection of Gem+ grade pearls: great natural luster (our pearls are NEVER polished), excellent surface (clean, unblemished), intense colors and beautiful overtones…
Finally, the pearl I came to Love from the minute it was plucked out: I christened it as “Matryoshka”, a most Slavic name for such a Mexican Pearl…but once you see its shape you understand why I named it this way. It has the most intense Aubergine color I have seen in years…
Will continue adding updates as the harvest proceeds…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (“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!
Welcome to our “Sea of Cortez Pearl” Blog-site. We are a group of Pearl Farmers located inside the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California, Mexico) and our plain intention is to open up a channel of communication between us and those of you that have been -or will be- our guests-visitors at our website and pearl farming facilities, a place where we can talk about subjects that revolve around our beloved marine gem: the environment, quality, cultural heritage, stories & myths, jewelry and jewelry designers, pearl farming and our pearl oysters.
Welcome! and stay tuned for new posts.
Manuel, Douglas & Enrique – Owners and Founders of Perlas del Mar de Cortez