South Sea Pearls Broome – Where do they come from?
The major producer of White South Sea Pearls are in the north west area of Australia centring on Broome in Western Australia. The industry is based on the cultivation and production of cultured pearls. The process involves the collection of wild oysters and integrating them with hatchery bred oysters. This keeps new and bio-diverse stock to supply of o healthy oysters and producing the best pearls. The industry is regulated and monitored by the Federal Government to ensure the industry standards are maintained and the long-term stability of the industry. The history of pearling in Broome since the 1850’s has a colourful past. From this time until the mid 20th Century the town was considered a frontier town. With the change in the law in 1949 which allowed cultured pearl production Broome became the undisputed capital of the South Sea pearling industry. The town has grown into a modern multi-cultural community and continues to dominate the industry worldwide.
In Indonesia and the Philippines pearls with a golden hue are being developed and these two countries are becoming the predominant producers of this variety. White pearls are still the most popular variety of cultured pearls produced for the Australian Market.
South Sea Pearls Broome – Size and Colour
South sea pearls are considered to be the largest to be produced. The oysters which produce the pearls have long growing periods allowing for pearls of large sizes to be produced. South sea pearls are the rarest of all pearl types and are highly sort after by jewellery designers and collectors. The range of colours that can be produced range from the traditional white pearls to pearls with a deep honey gold hue. As pearls are naturally occurring finding completely round ones are rare and as a consequence extremely valuable. A full strand of round and matched pearls are highly sort after.
South Sea Pearls – Colours and Shapes Available
South sea pearls are generally available from about 8mm to 20mm, with an average size of about 13cm. Some pearls exceed the 20mm but they are considered to be extremely rare and therefore highly regarded. Between 10% and 15% of cultured pearls produced can be considered round or near-round and these are the most sort after. The remainder of pearls are baroque and drop shapes which exhibit the colour and lustre and are used in high end jewellery. The unique size and shapes have led to some amazing necklaces and bracelets. The variety of sizes and shapes allows for pearls to be purchased at different price levels. There are two types of Pinctada Maxima oysters which produce two separate types of pearls. The silver lipped oyster produce the white, silver tones visible in white pearls. The gold lipped oyster give rise to the golden, champagne colours. Once harvested the south sea pearls are washed then slightly buffed to clean and enhance their natural beauty.
South Sea Pearls – Rarity and Value
The highest value and demand is generally the province of the white south sea pearl. The oysters which produce the pearls are a delicate animal and can be susceptible to disease and stress. For this reason the places where south sea pearls can be grown is limited and attempts to farm oysters outside of their natural environments has been unsuccessful generally. The larger sizes due the their scarcity and rarity are significantly more expensive to purchase. Depending on the size, lustre and colour a strand of white south sea pearls can sell from $10K to over $300K. Gold coloured pearls are generally less expensive and prices vary depending on the size colour and lustre as with white pearls. The value of the non round pearls similarly varies with size, colour, lustre and shape dependant upon how the shape fits within the proposed design.
Jill Hansen runs Anastasia’s Of Broome and is a highly recognised expert is the field of South Sea Pearls having trained in seeding pearls in Cook Islands by Japanese Pearl Technicians. She established a wholesale pearl business selling pearls all over the world. Jill pioneered the combination of pearls and diamonds to create Lust™ Pearls, a unique fusion of these beautiful gemstones. She is an accredited diamond expert and is happy to use and impart her knowledge to help customers make informed decisions.