What is Designer Pearl Farming

Designer pearl farming is freshwater pearl farming in which cultured designer pearls are produced. This type of pearl farming is very popular in India. The technique used in designer pearl farming is little different from traditional or contemporary pearl farming.

Mussels used in Designer Pearl Farming

In India the common species used in freshwater pearl farming are Lamellidens marginalis, L.corrianus, and P.corrugata. They are not as big as saltwater oysters but they successfully produce best quality of designer pearls.

Step by Step process of Designer Pearl Farming

In nature, a pearl is formed when a particle, piece of sand, insects etc. by chance enters into the body of mussel and the mussel can not throw that out so to defend itself it starts secreting a shiny coating on the particle layer by layer which is knows as nacre. This simple phenomenon is used in pearl culture. In pearl farming, the freshwater pearl culture operation involves six major steps sequentially:

  1. Collection of Mussels
  2. Pre-operative conditioning
  3. Process of nucleation/ Surgery
  4. Post operative care
  5. Pond Culture of implanted Mussels
  6. Harvest of Mussels & Pearls

Collection of mussels

The healthy mussels are collected from the freshwater bodies like pond, river etc. They are collected manually and kept in buckets or containers with water. The ideal mussel size used for pearl culture is over 8 cm in anterior-posterior length.

Pre-operative conditioning

The collected mussels are kept for pr-operative conditioning for 2 to 3 days. By keeping them in crowded condition in captivity with aged tap water at a stocking density of 1 mussel/l. This condition helps in weakening of adductor muscles, which helps in easy handling during surgery.

Process of Nucleation and Mussel surgery

Designer Pearls farming surgical instrument
Pearl Farming Kit

Depending on the place of surgery the implantation is of three types, mantle cavity, mantle tissue and gonadal implantation. Place of surgery and type of nucleus decides which type of pearl we want, round or designer. The key materials required during the surgical implantation are beads or nuclei, which are usually made from mollusc shell or other calcareous materials. Inexpensive and bio-compatible acrylic material can be used as nuclei in fresh water pearl culture.

Mantle cavity Implantation technique is used in Designer Pearl Farming. So, here we are going to discuss it in detail.

Pearl Farming, Designer pearls
Nucleus in the form of Ganesha

Mantle cavity implantation: In this procedure round (4-6 mm diameter) or designed (images of Ganesh, Buddha, etc.) beads are inserted into the mantle cavity region of mussel after opening the two valves (without causing injury to mussels at both ends) of animal and separating carefully the mantles of anterior sides from the shell with the help of surgical set. Implantation could be done in mantle cavities of both the valves. In case of implantation of designed beads care is taken such a way that the design portion faces the mantle. After placing the beads in desired place the gaps created during implantation are closed just by pushing the mantle onto the shell.

Pearl Farming, Designer pearls
Designer Pearl farming/ Nucleation of Mussels

Gonadal Implantation : This technique is used to produce round pearls. First a incision is made in the gonad. Then a graft (small pieces of mantle tissue from a donor mussel) is inserted into the gonad followed by round nucleus in such a way that the nucleus and graft should remain in close contact. Nucleus must touch the outer epithelial layer of the graft.

Post-operative care

Implanted mussels are kept in post-operative care unit in nylon bags for 10 days with antibiotic treatment and supply of natural food. The units are examined daily with removal of dead mussels and the ones that reject the nucleus.

Pond culture

After post-operative care the implanted mussels should be stocked in the ponds by keeping them in nylon bags (2 mussels per bag) and hanging from bamboo or PVC pipes and placed in ponds or big tanks at one meter depth. The mussels ponds should be periodically fertilized with organic manure and inorganic fertilizer to sustain the plankton productivity. Periodical checking of mussels with removal of dead ones and cleaning of bags should be carried out throughout the culture period of 12-18 months.

Pearl Farming, Designer pearls
Designer Pearl Farm

Food and Feeding

Algae is the predominant food for the freshwater mussels. Some species of algae belonging to Chlorophyta (green algae), Bacillariophyta (Diatoms) and Cyanophyta (blue green algae) are normally used as feed by the freshwater mussels. The commonly preferred algal species by the freshwater mussel Lamellidens marginalis are diatoms green algae (Chlorella chlorococcum, Scenedesmus etc.) and blue green algae (Spirulina). Culture vessels and tanks of desired capacities are to be selected prior to algal culture. Suitable medium should be prepared well in advance for different species to be cultured.

The pond culture of operated mussels varies from twelve month or more depending upon the type of surgery, health of the mussels and the condition of the pond environment. The culture units require periodic cleaning of accumulated silt and other fouling fauna, finding entry in to the units.

Pearl harvest

Pearl Farming, Designer pearls

The mussel should be harvested at the culture period. The designer pearls can be taken out from the mantle tissue of the live mussels. The mussels are sacrificed in case of mantle cavity method. Designer pearls are shell attached, therefore the pearl is extracted from the mussel by cutting it sharply and carefully.

Cleaning of Pearls

To clean the designer pearls they are put inside the salt water and some diluted bleaching agent. It removes all the spots and enhance its shining.

How much you can Earn from Designer Pearl Farming

India is not a pearl producing country. Among pearls and stones, imports of (raw) pearls had tripled, from $300 million in 2015-16 to above $1 billion, the highest ever, in 2017-18. This shows Indian’s interest in this precious stone. New techniques and regular researches in pearl farming, generating interest in young entrepreneurs in India.

Designer pearl farming is very contemporary and innovative technique of pearl farming. These new type of cultured natural pearls are getting very popular in Indian Household. If anyone do this farming in India, he can easily earn around 5-6 times of his investment.

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