July in Broome


We should say this update will be mostly about pearls.  And that is a pearl in Carol’s hand.  Value:  between $100,000 and $125,000.

Now more of the basic stats of peals in and about Broome.  Only about 8% of the pearls produced in the world come from Broome.  But 80% of the dollar volume comes from Broome.  The pearls are produced by silver or gold lip oyster Pinctada Maxima.  The largest pearl producing oyster grow up to 30cm in diameter and weighing up to 5 kilos.  Literature I have read indicate that about $200 million in pearls come out of Broome yearly.  The whole business started about 1850 ish and it was about the shell, and many men gained a lot of wealth selling shell.  The pearl was a bonus.


This was the first experience that white man had with the large shells that came from the shores in this area.  In this beginning era the shell was harvested as the tides went out.  That didn’t last long, and then boats and divers were used.  The “labor” to do the harvesting came from the natives (Aboriginals) and they were hardly even paid.  The best divers were girls and women, but they were abused, and the government stepped in an made it illegal to use women.  Then the men reached their limit at dives to about 130 feet.  Then foreign divers came in and the copper diving helmet became the tool of the trade.  Japanese men were the best at this trade, and the Aboriginal male could not be forced into the helmet and suit.  Many Japanese males died in this trade, and today there is no Japanese presence here in Broome (based on what I see on the street here).  IMG_1603I took this picture standing on the middle of the Japanese section of the cemetary.  I think there have been no burials here in many many years.  Our tour guide told us yesterday that 1 in 4 graves here is a pearl diver.  They ignored the decompression rules, and were fatalistic about their destiny.  The bends were just part of the trade.  Ouch!


Not a great picture, but all I have.  This is the pearl oyster in a vice that hold it for the seeding operation.  A perfectly round pieces of smooth shell from a Mississippi mussel is used as a seed.  The folks that do this are highly educated and skilled and make over $100,000 in a three month seeding season.  They can make special bonuses if their work results in extraordinary results. This cultured pearl is relatively new in the history of the jem.  In the days of Jesus Christ mortal mission a pearl was so rare and special they were  considered beyond value this the comparrison to things of value like a pearl of great price.

IMG_1999A rack hoised out of the water at the Willie Creek Pearl Farm.  (Toured Friday).  These shells are very cruddy and required regular cleaning.

IMG_2012If we had been willing to part with $27,500 we could have worn them out the door.  RIGHT!


Nice?  I really like the golden color.  I think it is not that common, but I know little about pearls, and have been in more pearl shops in the past 3 monts that in the whole of my life before Broome.  Prices here are from about $12,000 down to $5,000.  Want us to bring some home for you?  These prices are Australian – current conversion in .779 US to 1 Aussie.  Such a deal.

It was a fun tour.  The drive to the pearl farm was over some rugged dirt roads

IMG_1976Driver said; “conventional wisdom says 70km is right speed for these wash board roads.”  Rough ride for sure.  Another reason we thought it not appropriate to drive our mission car there.

Our whole tour took about 6 hours, but now we have a pretty good idea about the pearl business in Broome, and the effort required to produce very large and most beautyful pearls.  Most are pearls beyond my price.  Nice to look at though.  Gold in the rough is mostly hidden on rocks, and ugly rock at that.  Diamonds are not at all fetching in the rough, but the pearl looks just as you see it after it is lifetd from the oyster.  I can’t remember the precentages now but a small number are reseeded once,   a smaller number twice and a very small group the third time.  These oysters also produce a small precentage of Keshi pearls that are natural or have no seed.  These Kehi pearls are small and very irregular in shape.  But they do not give them away.

Published in: on July 12, 2009 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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