Implant the Nucleus
Technicians open the live pearl oysters or mollusk gently, then surgically implant a small shell bead (mother of pearl) along with a tiny piece of mantle tissue (commonly for saltwater pearls) or only a tiny piece of mantle tissue (commonly for freshwater pearls). This bead or mantle tissue is the nucleus around which the oyster or mollusk secretes layers of nacre (the substance that forms the pearl). Culturing process requires skill and precision - especially for akoya pearl culturing process. It takes months even years to master the process. Technicians need exact tools to make precise operation.
Back to Water
The nucleated oysters or mollusks are quickly returned to the natural water such as sea (saltwater pearls) or lake/river (freshwater pearls), housed in suspended individual mesh pockets. The oysters or mollusks feed and grow in water bodies rich in natural nutrients. As time goes by, the oysters or mollusks secrete layers of nacre around the implanted nucleus.
Oysters have to be lifted from the sea for cleaning and health care and treated with compounds to prevent parasites from injuring the oysters periodically. These oysters have to be protected from every threat such as typhoons, red tides and predators to ensure best harvest of pearls.
The pearl farmers bring the oysters or mollusks back to shore to harvest. Comparing with freshwater pearls, akoya pearls have much lower successful rate. Only a tiny fraction of them produce high grade pearls. Less than five percent of the harvested pearls are considered fine quality. The few marketable pearls are then cleaned, soaked, and sorted.