Gaining Pearls of Wisdom – Central Coast Express Advocate

Gaining Pearls of Wisdom – Central Coast Express Advocate

IN 2003 four oyster farmers came up with a pearler of an idea and established Broken Bay Pearls in Woy Woy, the only pearl farm on Australia’s east coast.
Since then Peter Clift, Denis Paterson, Ian Crisp and Roger Clarke have learned a lot about growing superior Akoya pearls in the leases near their boat house.
Around this time every year the pallets are pulled from the water and the shells are cracked open to hopefully reveal quality pearls ready to be graded and turned to a stunning set of earrings or a necklace.
Not all shells will yield a pearl but the strike rate for these pearl farmers is high, about 80 per cent.
“What we’re looking for is no blemishes and a good lustre,” Mr Clift said as he pulled a pearl from a shell. “This one is triple A.”
More than 4000 pearls were harvested in just a day and a half last week.
“We only harvest at this time of year, when the water temperature starts to drop and the surface of the pearl is at its best,” Mr Clift said.
Starting the cycle as oyster spat bought from NSW Fisheries, by the time the pearls are harvested they have been in the water for almost five years.
After two years a small bead is inserted and it takes another 18 months to two years to grow pearl around the bead.
This harvest season saw staff from Rutherford Pearls, the first specialist pearl shop in Melbourne, visit to experience first-hand the thrill of opening a shell and finding a shiny, lustrous pearl inside.
Owner Ruth Close and her staff, Dee Nikolic and Sabella Ormandy, were fascinated by the process.
“The beauty of Broken Bay Pearls is they are not as processed as other pearls, they are so natural,” Ms Close said.
“It’s lovely when clients come into the store and want something Australian and I can show them these.”
Mr Clift said the farmers were continuing to learn on the job but were happy with their end product.
“We can’t compete with imported pearls on price but we can compete when it comes to quality.”