Oysters with pearls tend to subside in very deep waters (up to 40 feet) in regions such as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Central America, the Caribbean, and certain states in the US. Finding a pearl in the wild isn’t easy and is typically quite rare. However, it is possible to find oysters with pearls if you have the proper equipment and you know where to look. You can also choose to hire a guided diving team to assist you on your underwater quest to find natural pearls in oysters.
Pearls come in all shapes, lengths, and hues. No two are exactly alike, which makes finding a natural pearl all the more intriguing. Below, we’ll express where and how to best find oysters with pearls. We’ll also touch upon how pearls are created and the key variations that exist between natural and cultured pearls. Wondering where you can find oysters with pearls? Let’s dive right in.
Where to Find Oysters with Pearls
The very idea of opening up an oyster and finding a natural pearl to be harvested can only be likened to finding an unopened treasure chest at the bottom of the sea. It is an exciting and adventurous process that can yield beautiful lasting results in the form of a pearl.
Of course, finding natural pearls in the wild is often easier said than done. While some folks have gotten lucky and have ordered oysters from seafood markets, only to find an illustrious pearl, for the most part, you’re going to have to do some work.
Where can you find oysters with pearls?
Let’s look at pearl hunting on a global scale. For much of the time, a majority of the fresh seawater pearls were found by divers pearl hunting in the Indian Ocean, specifically between Sri Lanka and India. Many pearls can also be found around a native island in the Persian Gulf. Oysters with pearls have also been found in the waters off of Asian nations such as Japan.
In the United States, freshwater pearls can be found in mussels pulled from lakes and rivers in regions such as Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Additionally, marine pearls have been found in oysters in those turquoise blue Caribbean waters and along the coast of South America. Pearl diving has long been an exercise in patience. When it comes to marine pearls, you generally need to go down into depths of more than 40 feet or even up to 125 feet to find pearl oysters.
Unfortunately, these waters tend to be quite hazardous, especially if you’re a novice diver.
US States with Pearl Oysters
Obviously the idea of flying across the world to go pearl diving in the Indian ocean isn’t accessible to most individuals, even if you desperately want to find oysters with pearls. Luckily, pearl enthusiasts and hunters can find pearls in the United States. There’s only one caveat: most pearls found in US waters are taken from mussels, not oysters. If you want saltwater pearls with oysters, your only option is Hawaii.
If you care less about the pearl vessel and more about the pearl itself, you have a few key options in the US if you want to find pearls. Generally, lakes in Kentucky, rivers in Tennessee, and San Angelo will offer you plenty of opportunities to find mussels with pearls. In rivers, mussels are most often found in shallow water. Sandy areas prove the most successful. You can find mussels in rivers, lakes, and streams.
You can also choose to wade into the middle of shallow waters to find pearl mussels. All you have to do is feel around the bottom until you find some mussels to bring to the surface. In lakes, you will likely need some basic diving equipment in order to find mussels with pearls. If you’re more interested in oysters with pearls, Hawaii is your best bet, but you will need a boat and some diving equipment to find the oysters and commercially viable pearls.
Generally speaking, saltwater pearls will require you to do some diving. Freshwater mussels with pearls are found in the sandy stream and lake beds, meaning you’ll only need minimal equipment to find the pearls. The only thing to bear in mind is that mussels can be difficult to find as they blend in with the natural silt and sand of the river.
How Do Oysters Make Pearls?
Now that you know where you can find oysters (and muscles) with pearls, let’s take a minute to talk about how oysters actually form these gorgeous little gems. Pearls form inside of oysters under rather extraordinary circumstances. Largely, a natural pearl will start to develop within the inside of an oyster shell when an invasive outsider, something as tiny as a grain of sand, actually slides in between the two shells of the oyster.. This irritates the proactive layer that covers the mollusk’s organs, known scientifically as the mantle.
Much like you wouldn’t want irritants within you, the oyster wants to protect itself from the irritation these invaders can bring. To do this, the oyster will rapidly strive to cover the uninvited intruder with visible layers of nacre. This is a mineral substance that works to create the mollusk’s outer shells. Layer upon layer of this nacre (known as the mother of pearl) is used to coat the intruder until a small iridescent gem is formed. That’s how you get a pearl!
Cultured pearls are fashioned in a similar way, the main difference is that instead of a grain of sand or a bit of food permeating the oyster accidentally, a trained “pearl farmer” will introduce the invader into the oyster or mussel themselves.
The Difference Between Natural and Cultured Pearls
As mentioned above, there are some differences between natural and cultured pearls. It is important to keep this in mind as you seek to find oysters with pearls because this can dictate how and when you strive to find your pearls.
For example, while some people love the thrill of pearl hunting for natural pearls, others simply want the experience of cracking open an oyster and seeing what’s inside, thus they’ll simply order oysters from a cultured pearl farmer. However you want to find oysters with pearls is fine, but it is important to note the differences between cultured and natural pearls.
To start, color does not really come into play when it comes to natural or cultured pearls. Both can come in a rainbow of hues. While many of us think of pearls as being ivory white like teeth, they actually come in a myriad of distinctive colors. The most common colors for both natural and cultured pearls are gray, red, blue, green, and even black. White pearls do exist, but they’re not always as common as people think.
Now, let’s get to the differences. Natural pearls are simply pearls that form naturally within an oyster or mussel. As mentioned above, these pearls form when invaders like sand or food particles get into the mollusk. To protect itself, the oyster or mussel will cover the invader with the mother of pearl, which results in a natural and beautiful pearl.
Cultured pearls are those that are crafted with some major help from human-kind. Rather than letting nature take its course, pearl harvesters and farmers will cut small slits in the mantle of the oyster and insert invader irritants in an attempt to get the oyster to create pearls. Cultured pearls are still natural in the sense that they’re being formed within the mollusk, but they are not formed with natural methods.
Generally speaking, you won’t find much of a difference in quality when it comes to natural and cultured pearls. The major difference is that cultured pearls are more affordable. Since they can be harvested regularly, they are not rare, nor is there a very taxing process involved with securing the pearls. Natural pearls are quite rare and aren’t easy to extract from the water. This is why they tend to be quite pricey.
Any oyster or mollusk can technically produce pearls, but some types are more likely to produce them than others. Generally, oysters harvested to serve as food are not great for pearls.
How Long For an Oyster to Make a Pearl
For the most part, oysters can develop pearls in as little as six months. However, very large pearls can take years to fully develop. This is why large pearls tend to be very expensive and yield a higher value. Obviously, patience is a virtue when for pearl harvesters waiting for that big pearl or for those simply looking to test their luck in natural waters.
If you are lucky enough to find an oyster with a pearl, it is important to note that harvesting a pearl from an oyster will not kill the oyster or mollusk, especially when done carefully. This is why pearl harvesting is not frowned upon because it is a sustainable and rather moral practice.
Pearl farmers and harvesters always take great strides not to kill the oyster that produced the pearl. In fact, most will use surgical type instruments to carefully remove the pearls without harming the oysters themselves. The only way that oysters are harmed are when those with no experience or little tact open an oyster in a rather unsustainable manner.
Looking for oysters with pearls can be a grand adventure, but it won’t be easy. If you live in the US, strive to find seawater pearls in the coastal waters of Hawaii. If you’re fine with freshwater pearls, head to states such as Tennessee and find some mussels along the sandy shores. However you may choose to find oysters with pearls, know that the experience will be just as valuable as the pearl itself!