Pearl hunting

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Pearl diver in Japan

Pearl hunting or pearl diving refers to a now largely obsolete method of retrieving pearls from oysters. Before the beginning of the 20th century, the only means of obtaining pearls was by manually opening oysters found on the ocean floor or river bottom. Free-divers were often forced to descend to depths of over 100 feet on but a single breath, exposing them to dangers of sharks, jellyfish and drowning. Often, because of these dangers, divers were slaves or others from low societal classes. Because of the difficulty of diving and the unpredictable nature of natural pearl growth in oysters, pearls of the time were extremely rare and of varying quality.

For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean, in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar (between Sri Lanka and India). Pearl divers near the Philippines were also successful at harvesting large pearls, especially in the Sulu Archipelago. Similarly, Native Americans harvested pearls from lakes and rivers like the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi, while others successfully retrieved marine pearls from the Caribbean and waters along the coasts of Central and South America.

Today, some, like the Ama divers of Japan, continue pearl hunting, but their numbers are few because of the new methods of pearl farming developed by Japanese scientist Kokichi Mikimoto, which allowed for more predictable production. Today's cultured pearl industry produces millions of high quality pearls every year, taking advantage of the natural process of pearl growth by implanting particles in the oysters that encourage the formation of pearls.

The term 'pearl diving' is also UK slang for 'washing the dishes'; as in "I've got to go pearl diving" which means "I need to wash the dishes"

[edit] See also

  • Fijiri - vocal music of the Arabian pearl diver.

[edit] References

[edit] See also

  • Ganter, Regina. (1994). The Pearl-Shellers of Torres Strait: Resource Use, Development and Decline, 1860s-1960s. Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84547-9.

Pearl hunting

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