The quiet and calm waters off Phu Quoc Island are the ideal place for the development of marine life. In the past, islanders used to collect natural mother-of-pearl and pearls, the high quality of which made them particularly unique and valuable. However, only one in 15,000 oysters contained a natural pearl.
The pearl cultivation officially began on Phu Quoc Island 18 years ago when Japanese and Australian experts arrived to develop the industry with advanced technology. A few large Vietnamese farms were also set up at that time, including Quoc An. Along with the time, pearl farming has blossomed here.
According to Le Thi My Dung, owner of the Quoc An pearl farm, pearls of Phu Quoc island are a favourite gift for many people as they are shiny and good for health.
Pearl is a solid substance in a spherical shape, produced by some species, mainly mollusca, including oysters and freshwater mussels.
Pearl farmers often select oysters aged between six months and two years. After nucleating, oysters are placed in cages (six in each) which are then put on the sea bed. Farmed pearls are usually harvested after about two years.
During the period, the oysters must be cleaned weekly with barnacles removed from their shells. The water must be kept clean to make the pearls shiny and beautiful.
“In order to have a beautiful and pure bead, first we need to make sure the oysters are strong by taking care of them every day and controlling the water level as well,” said Ho Quang Cuong from the Ngoc Hien pearl farm.
To extract the pearl, the worker slides a knife between the oyster, avoid directly hitting the pearl inside and scratching it. After being removed from the oyster, the pearl is cleaned and polished with special instruments. The polishing process aims to remove any blemishes. Pearls are valued by their size, shape, luster and the presence of blemishes.
Cultured pearls may be black, white, yellow, pink or shaded with different colours.
Pearls from oysters and mussels can be made into rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other items of jewelry. Almost all the solid parts of oysters and mussels, including their shells, are useful. They can be made into buttons and inlaid into furniture and fine arts, while the soft parts offer nutritious food.
In traditional medicine, pearl powder can be mixed with other ingredients to produce tranquillising or detoxicating effects and facilitate the lachrymal system. Pearl powder is also useful in the treatment of epileptic convulsion, cataracts, tinnitus, dizziness and other problems afflicting bones, joints and skin. It is even used in cosmetics.
Cultured pearls are omnipresent in Phu Quoc, put on sale from the north to the south of the island, from the airport to the harbour.
The souvenir will remind tourists of the unforgettable time they spent in Phu Quoc – the Pearl island in the south of Vietnam.