11 – 15 May 2009

The miracle from the ocean

The miracle of the golden pearl

When we saw mariculture listed amongst the subjects WWF wished us to document, my first thought was Jewelmer. For many years, we have longed to photograph a pearl farm to see how the famed South Sea Pearls came to be. An organic jewel made by a living organism and fed by the ocean’s plankton is too precious to miss. With open arms, the Jewelmer team welcomed us to their Farm 4 in Malotamban Island, Taytay, Palawan.

Jacques Branellec explaining the grafting process of inserting a nucleus and mantle into the gonad of an oyster

Jacques Branellec explained the grafting process of inserting a nucleus and a piece of mantle into a canal of the gonad of an oyster, which eventually turns into a pearl

JB shows freshly harvested pearls

JB shows freshly harvested pearls

We felt overwhelmed, as no less than Jacques Branellec, Jewelmer’s charismatic French managing director, brought us around, first to his quaint resort Flower Island, then to the pearl farm. We saw the farm’s full operation from land, sea, and air.

Jewelmer has an extensive website which tells the story of nature’s miraculous pearls. I shall only hope to scratch the surface, showing the complex pearl story through pictures.

Doris in her plankton lab where she cultivates oyster baby phytoplankton formulas

Doris in her plankton lab, where she cultivates baby oyster phytoplankton formulas

Hanging nets containing pinctada maxima oyster shells undergoing one of 323 steps to make a pearl

Hanging nets containing Pinctada maxima oyster shells undergoing one of 323 steps to make a pearl

Divers transferring oyster nets to the "highway" to let the ocean feed the oysters

Divers transferring nets to the “highway” to let the ocean feed the oysters

After 5 years of tender loving care, a perfect golden south sea pearl worth up to $10,000 is made by nature

After five years of tender loving care, a perfect golden south sea pearl worth up to $10,000 is made by nature, with a little help from man

Jewelmer’s commitment to the protection of the environment is crucial to the survival of their multi-million dollar business, not to mention the thousands of people who work for them.  Each worker and leader of the different departments of the pearl farm see their work more as a vocation than a job, as the care of nature brings in return a magnificent jewel only a clean environment can make possible.

Let's not lose our models. They are worth a lot . . .

Let’s not lose our models. They are worth a lot!