The prized Australian South Sea pearl oyster thrives only in a miniscule area of the Indian Ocean, the only area in the world where the warm plankton-rich waters can produce the magnificent South Sea pearl.
Off the remote shores of Australia’s Kimberley Coast, Paspaley divers, as sleek as seals, weave their way down to the pearl beds where marine life sways with the rhythmic swell of this mystical pearl ocean.
South Sea pearl cultivation is as much an art as a science. The astonishing journey begins with an extraordinarily rare oyster plucked from the wild, one that we expertly cultivate with fine precision and nurture by hand for many years. Returned to the wonderland of the deep and left to thrive, the miracle of creation continues within the mysterious confines of the pearl shell. Tending to these mystifying creatures by hand, our pearlers act as guardians, painstakingly cleaning and cajoling each oyster for as long as nine years.
Flourishing in a harmonious and natural habitat, the oysters absorb the nutrients and minerals of the pristine waters to shape and nourish each pearl to be as unique and beautiful as it possibly can be.
Our pearl culturing process begins with the careful harvesting of the Pinctada maxima oyster - the prized silver-lipped mother of pearl shell. Teams of Paspaley divers navigate the perils of the ocean’s depths to hand-pick the wild oysters from the seabed. Only oysters of a certain size and strictly limited in number may be harvested to ensure the longevity of the species. The wild oysters are selected for suitability, and then returned to a 'nursery' on an open patch of ocean floor to await the all important seeding procedure later in the season.
On rare occasions a wild oyster produces one of nature’s most valuable miracles, prized above all others, a natural pearl. Being one of the few remaining pearling fleets diving for wild pearl oysters, Paspaley is one of the last sources of natural pearls in the world.
Paspaley has also invested significantly in creating hatcheries to breed pearl oysters, to ensure a thriving future for this unique pearl oyster.
With precision and expertise, Paspaley technicians delicately seed the oysters, planting a nucleus - a polished sphere of freshwater mussel shell - to stimulate the creation of nature’s gem. The Paspaley 4, a floating, purpose-built laboratory, is home to this highly complex operation where the oysters are nurtured in constantly circulating seawater before the nucleus is skilfully inserted. Once seeded, the oysters are returned to the ocean to allow nature to take its course.
Nurtured by the hands of a dedicated team, the oysters are cleaned frequently to ensure optimum health. Living in some of the world’s most remote areas, in the oyster’s natural habitat, our teams attentively fulfil their roles as caretakers.
Harvest season is abuzz with excitement as we patiently wait to see the crop that nature has created. The oysters are raised from the ocean once again and returned to the Paspaley fleet. Our technicians delicately open the shell of the pearl oyster to reveal its creation - unknown until that very moment.
Oysters which produce a high quality pearl may be seeded again for another harvest. Larger pearls are generally found after the fourth, fifth, or sixth year of the farming cycle.