South Sea pearls make up about 10% of the cultured pearl market, and are among the most expensive and sought-after cultured pearls in the world. They are cultivated off the shores of Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand.
South Sea pearls come from the so-called “white-lipped” oyster, which is wild and hand-picked, making it susceptible to depletion. Therefore strict regulations protect this treasured oyster from over-farming. Divers travel from 10 to 80 meters below the surface to find the perfect oysters. Nuclei are implanted and the oysters are returned to the sea, to isolated bays conducive to pearl development. A few months later the oysters are actually X-rayed to see if the nuclei have implanted properly. If they have, then the oyster is left to develop the pearl over 2 to 3 years.
A technician harvests the pearl from the oyster and implants another nucleus if the oyster is healthy. This process may be repeated up to 4 times for each oyster. South Sea pearls have an exceptionally thick nacre, contributing to their beauty and lustre. A South Sea pearl needs only to be cleaned and polished once it is harvested.
Due to their long cultivation period, many South Sea pearls are quite large, which leads to their relatively high costs. In addition, South Sea pearls are more expensive due to the rarity of the white-lipped oyster.
The thick nacre of South Sea pearls gives them a lustre that varies from other types of pearls; specifically, their lustre is more soft, and less shiny or reflective as that of other pearl types. They are found in a variety of shapes, with round and drop shapes among the most popular. They are usually some shade of white, from cream to champagne to a silvery-white that makes South Shore pearls one of nature’s most treasured gifts.