jgrahldesign@earthlink.net
 
   
   
 
Pearl Hunting
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
 
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. Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Western Hemisphere, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive pearl bed.

One discovered and named pearl, La Perigrina, was offered to the Spanish queen. According to Garcilasso de la Vega, who says that he saw La Peregrina at Seville in 1507, (Garcilasso, "Historie des Incas, Rois du Perou," Amsterdam, 1704, Vol. II, P. 352.) this was found at Panama in 1560 by a negro who was rewarded with his liberty, and his owner with the office of alcalde of Panama.

Margarita pearls are extremely difficult to find today and are known for their unique yellowish color. The most famous Margarita necklace that anyone can see today is the one that then Venezuelan President Romulo Bettencort gave to Jacqueline Kennedy when she and her husband, President John F. Kennedy paid an official visit to Venezuela.

Before the beginning of the 20th Century, pearl hunting was the most common way of harvesting pearls. Divers manually pulled oysters from ocean floors and river bottoms and checked them individually for pearls. Not all mussels and oysters produce pearls. In a haul of three tons, only three or four oysters will produce perfect pearls.