Scientists culture pearls from queen conch for first time

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Washington, November 4 (ANI): Scientists, using novel and proprietary seeding techniques, have for the first time produced beaded (nucleated) and non-beaded cultured pearls from the queen conch.

Scientists from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) cultured the pearls.

With less than two years of research and experimentation, Drs. Hector Acosta-Salmon and Megan Davis, co-inventors, have produced more than 200 cultured pearls using the techniques they developed.

Prior to this breakthrough, no high-quality queen conch pearl had been cultured. This discovery opens up a unique opportunity to introduce a new gem to the industry.

This significant accomplishment is comparable to that of the Japanese in the 1920s when they commercially applied the original pearl culture techniques developed for pearl oysters.

HBOI has been working with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to conduct extensive laboratory testing of the queen conch cultured pearls.

In its independent analysis, GIA used techniques that included conventional gemological examination, chemical composition, spectroscopy, spectrometry and microscopy.

"This is a significant development for the pearl industry, and we were very excited to have the opportunity to closely examine these unique conch cultured pearls in our laboratory," said Tom Moses, senior vice president of the GIA Laboratory and Research.

"Several of the pearls we examined are truly top-quality gems. With the equipment and expertise available at the GIA Laboratory, identification criteria are being compiled to separate queen conch cultured pearls from their natural counterparts," he added.

Previous efforts to culture queen conch pearls were unsuccessful, probably because of the animal's sensitivity to traditional pearl seeding techniques and its complex shell.

The spiral shape of the shell makes it virtually impossible to reach the gonad, one of the pearl-forming portions in pearl oysters, without endangering the animal's life.

"Perhaps the most significant outcome from our research is that the technique we have developed does not require sacrificing the conch in the process," said Davis.

"The 100 percent survival rate of queen conch after seeding and the fact that it will produce another pearl after the first pearl is harvested will make this culturing process more efficient and environmentally sustainable for commercial application," he added.

Survival of the animal is critical because commercial fishing has depleted the once-abundant wild populations of queen conch, and they are now considered a commercially threatened species in Florida and throughout the Caribbean. (ANI)

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