About Blue Pearls
New Zealand Blue Pearls are produced by the Abalone Mollusc. Abalone are a gentle sea snail, with a large central muscular foot and an amazingly colourful and lustrous shell.
There are over one hundred different species of abalone throughout the world's oceans - and the native New Zealand species is called Paua. Paua or Haliotis iris are only found in the cool clear waters close to the New Zealand coastline. It is these creatures which possess the greatest range of colour and iridescence of any abalone shell.
Using the extensive knowledge accumulated over twenty years diving for paua, Roger Beattie and his team at Eyris Blue Pearls have pioneered ways to farm paua. These paua are allowed to develop as naturally as possible in their own ocean environment. With the ebb and flow of the tides; through calm and stormy weather; fed only on their natural diet of nutrient rich seaweed. Paua are voracious eaters, they eat up to 50% of their body weight per week. Without continued access to high quality natural seaweed, a blue pearl farming operation would not be viable.
Eyris Blue Pearls have operated five sea-based blue pearl farms in the waters around New Zealand. These geographically isolated farms in the Chatham Islands, the Marlborough Sounds, Banks Peninsula and Wellington Harbour harvest healthy paua from the rocky coastline and raise them in specially designed pearl barrels suspended beneath the surface.
New Zealand’s Paua Fishery is managed by strict quota that allow only a set amount of paua to be caught each year. Even then, the only permitted method of harvesting is by “free-diving” without underwater breathing apparatus. Paua occur in the exposed, rougher waters off New Zealand’s rocky coastline, at a depth of between one and fifteen metres. New Zealand’s diverse marine life and the growing populations of marine mammals means that there is an ever present danger of great white shark attacks in certain areas - so paua diving is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Paua are carefully selected from the wild for their strong and vibrant shell colours. Once harvested and settled into their new home, the paua are nucleated on board a specially developed pearling vessel. The nucleation process mirrors what happens in nature. In the wild paua are sometimes found out of the water above the low tide level. By taking this operation to the paua, the time that the animals are out of the water is kept to a minimum.
Although most of the nucleation process is kept a secret, Eyris Blue Pearls are continuing to refine the art of attaching a seed to the inside of the shell, beneath the mantle, so that a blue pearl mabe can develop. This is a delicate process, as paua have no blood-clotting agent, and a single nick can be fatal. Once the seed is inserted beneath the mantle, the paua begins to overlay this nucleus with its brilliant mother-of-pearl, made up of layer upon layer of conchiolin and nacre.
At least eighteen months and thousands of layers later the resulting blue pearl presents a lustre and iridescence that is almost magical to behold.
The Pearl Harvest is a time of great excitement and anticipation for the Eyris Blue Pearl Team; the culmination of a minimum of three years work for everyone involved. Will this be a good harvest, or a great harvest? Will the next paua contain a lustrous iridescent, brilliantly coloured, gem quality blue pearl?
Only one paua in five produces a marketable blue pearl and only one in fifty produces a near perfect pearl, with exquisite colours, a mirror finish, and a totally smooth surface.
By world standards, the blue pearl brings an exciting freshness that is unmatched for colour, lustre, and iridescence. Blue pearls vary in colour - ranging from blues and greens, gold to pinks, some also have splashes of red and violet. There are bright vibrant tones and soft subtle hues.
The pearls have a chameleon quality about them; the colours change in the way they catch the light. Liquid colours that almost have a life of their own. This variation in colour gives each pearl a distinctive character. The number of colour combinations is infinite.
The colours of blue pearls are created by the genetic make up of each individual paua, the colours and iridescence of their shell, their diet and the natural environment in which they live. Paua are grazing animals, feeding on a variety of seaweeds. It is the combination of brown, red and green seaweeds,with their amazing array of nutrients, that gives each blue pearl its wonderful spectrum of colours.
Blue pearl colours are also affected by the composition of the water, the temperature and the water flow. The greater the variation in water temperature, the more defined the layering and therefore the more intense the colour of the pearl.
Blue pearls are made up of thousands of layers of nacre and conchiolin randomly secreted by each individual paua. The nacre is made up of aragonite and calcite crystals. The conchiolin is dark organic matter. The layers are a combination of biological and mineral bonding. Nacre gives a pearl its lustre and hardness, while the conchiolin “acts as a mirror, reflecting light back through the nacre toward the observer for maximum light return, colour and iridescence.” It is this combination of nacre and conchiolin that gives each pearl its special uniqueness and beauty.
Information Courtesty of Eyris Blue Pearls.