In the olden days the lustrous and
beautiful natural pearls were a symbol of wealth and pride for those who
owned them. When we see the ancient portraits of kings and queens with
long pearl necklaces and bracelets worn around their wrists it reiterates
the same fact. Today the story is different. We see that very few corners
of the world are free from a hostile and violent environment. When we come
to know the true story behind the pearls, it will hardly remain a sign of
wealth and pride for any one. For those who care for life it is a symbol
of pain and suffering.
Myths and legends hide the bitter
fact that pearls come from the suffering of the oysters found in deep
ocean. Pearls are not the natural part of the living oyster but a response
to an irritation caused by a foreign particle. It occurs when sand or a
bit of shell or an unwelcome parasite is trapped accidentally inside the
oyster's shell. It's like having a foreign particle in the human eye,
causing irritation until removed.
Most of the time the oyster cannot
expel the foreign particle, so to reduce the pain caused by the foreign
body it surrounds it with nacre-a silvery calcium carbonate substance that
the oyster normally discharges to line it's shell.
After several years, layers of
nacre form a pearl around the irritant, making the irritant less painful.
This way the oyster creates a rainbow like iridescent pearl. Due to this
natural process pearls were rarely found.
Driven by greed men then invented
artificial ways to obtain more pearls. One such man is Kokichi Mikimoto
who experimented for years to produce pearls in oysters. In the early
1900's he found the solution and discovered the method of commercial pearl
culturing in Japan.
A painful journey of the oyster
begins. Mikimoto patented a way of tricking small akoya oysters into
producing pearls. The process begins with divers searching for young
oysters in the deep ocean. A technician then takes a round bead made from
the shell of the fresh water mussel. This bead is called the nucleus that
substitutes the foreign particle and is inserted into the oyster., Then a
tiny piece of mantle (oyster's fleshy lip) is cut from the same oyster and
inserted next to the nucleus. All this is done without anesthesia. This
nucleus causes pain and irritation to the inside of the oyster for years.
This pain causes the mantle to secrete the nacre that coat the nucleus
until it has formed into a pearl. Such "seeded" pearls are consistently
rounder and more luminous and more importantly, they can be produced in
larger quantities for human greed and passion. For years the oyster
suffers the hurt and soreness until the oyster is split open alive to get
the pearl. Many a times an oyster may yield nothing at all and the life is
After knowing the process of the
real and cultured pearls the belief that pearls do not involve any
violence turns false. Many believe that cultured pearls are man-made,
simulated or fake pearls made in machine. The truth proved otherwise: they
are made and produced solely by oysters and obtained by killing millions
of oysters each year mercilessly.
Jain Meditation International
Center, New York