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Blue Pearls

G’day; I thought some of you folk might be interested to learn that
there is a fast growing abalone pearl industry here in the South
Island of New Zealand; I hadn’t known until I saw an excellent program
on TV tonight that had none of the usual BS that most do. The abalone
are called paua (“parwar”) here and when I lived near Wellington in
the North Island, one could pick them off the rocks in fairly shallow
water whilst diving when the tide was out. They get the live paua
from near there, chill them and cart them down to Akaroa near
Christchurch in the South Island. Akaroa is the huge crater of an
ancient extinct volcano, (it must be about 15 miles across) and there
the sea is very free from pollution. They put the paua in barrels
along with several varieties of seaweed - a virtual salad for paua.
But first they put a little plastic button in the mantle of the paua;
a flattened sphere about 6 mm across. The paua are carefully looked
after; their barrel ‘homes’ being taken aboard a purpose built boat
every week, the fish scrubbed free of any growth or parasites, the
seaweed salad renewed, the mesh top water blasted, and the barrel
returned to the depths. As a matter also of interest, they also grow
and sustainably harvest the various seaweeds that the paua feed on.
The paua are harvested in 2 years, when the pearl is well grown and
about a centimetre across, in the form of a blister; called mabe
(marbee) pearls. They showed us the beautiful paua shell being cut
using a diamond saw and a heavy water flow, with the operator wearing
a mask, for paua dust is very bad for the lungs, producing lesions
like those of asbestosis and silicosis. They didn’t show us how the
pearl was finished, as that’s supposed to be a secret process, but
they did show us about 30 or so which the owner was sorting and
grading into 8 colour variations for matching purposes. They also
showed a jeweller bezel mounting them in rings and pendants etc, using
a hammer-graving tool. I must say they really looked beautiful.
I’ve no idea what they sold for, but it would have to be heaps, for
the set up costs were in the vicinity of 4 million dollars! So there
you are; New Zealand does have more than just sheep and tourists!
Cheers, –

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ