Mabe pearls in Australian Jeweller Magazine


High profile jewellery photographer Richard Weinstein and travel writer Kris Madden were invited to Vietnam to witness first-hand the country’s thriving Mabe pearl industry. Here is their account.

Although pearls have been farmed and cultured in the calm seas off Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island for hundreds of years; the pearl industry here really only began to flourish around 15 years ago, when changes to Vietnam’s foreign investment laws enabled foreign-owned companies and joint ventures to commence operations.

Thanks to modern techniques introduced by Australia and Japan, it has blossomed in a short period. Ngo Chien Pearls, run by Australian Michael Ramsden, a former pearl diver from Broome, was one of the first 100 per cent foreign-owned companies to set up in Phu Quoc.

Today, Phu Quoc island is highly regarded as a supplier of quality pearls to the local and global jewellery markets. Along with cultured pearls,  the pearl farms of Phu Quoc are enjoying an increased interest in Mabe pearls. Asian buyers, in particular, love the special designs that can be created – such as hearts, teardrops and images of the Buddha.

Mabe pearls are different from the usual spherical-shaped pearls because of the process used to cultivate them. Instead of growing inside the body of the mollusc, Mabe pearls grow against the inside of the shell.

The Mabe pearl oyster, known as the penguin wing oyster (Pteria penguin), makes its nacre deposits over the nucleus, forming a ”half pearl”.  The process gives Mabe pearls a flat side, making them ideal for use in earrings and rings by providing a secure setting and a concealed flat back. Depending on the desired size, it can take up to six years for each pearl to grow.

Mabe pearls can be found in a variety of stunning colours, from white and cream through to light pink, green, peacock and black. Pink, champagne and golden hues are considered to be rare. Even harder to find are pink pearls with gold swirls.

While they might not be as expensive or valuable as their round counterparts, Mabe pearls are exquisite in their own right.
Notable pearl farms and outlets in Phu Quoc include Ngo Chien Pearls and Treasures from the Deep.

Pearl admirers should put Phu Quoc island on their must-do list to see this unique industry first-hand.

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