Very few of us know about the many ways in which pearls are formed. If you want to know the answer, ask Vijayeta Rathore, a young scholar in applied aquaculture from Barkatullah University of Bhopal.
She has developed cultured designer pearls from freshwater leafage and mussels, the first-of-its-kind endeavour in Madhya Pradesh.
Vijayeta, barely in her early twenties, says that the designer pearl culture is more bewitching but less expensive than cultured pearls normally available in the market.
She says: "If one takes up designer pearl production as a business, he or she will reap rich dividends because pearls market is second biggest after diamonds in the international market. If the designer pearls are of good quality, they will fetch good money."
She adds: "These days in the market we have Chinese pearls, Japanese pearls and other types of pearls. These fresh-water mussel designer pearls are no less in quality than the available pearls. Indeed, their rates are reasonable."
To make designer pearls, Vijayeta inserts beads with a punched shape of a deity or anything inside a freshwater mussel (that live on the bottom of rivers, irrigation canals and farm dams) collected from the River Vidisha.
The mussels carrying designer beads are then packed in netted bags, which are tied with a bamboo stick and the stick is left in a pond for 15 days.
After 15 days, the freshwater mussels are placed in the netted bags and sent for raft culture (resting in water for a few days) where the beads are gradually covered with nacre layer, Vijayeta explained.
Vijayeta makes flawless pearls as part of her study curriculum. She makes them in the shape of Lord Shiva, Buddha, Ganesha, the Holy Cross and others, shiny and bright with impeccable nacre (also known as mother-of-pearl).
She has plans to commence a large-scale designer pearl business soon.
Among all the students of the Applied Aquaculture Department of University, Vijayeta has conducted pearl culture experiments most successfully.
Dr Susan Manohar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Aquaculture, of Barkatullah University, said: “We are making pearls in fresh-water mussels. Generally, pearl oysters are found in marine water. Now scientists have found ways of pearl production in fresh-water mussels. This is happening for the first time in Madhya Pradesh.”
Manohar said: “The beads that stuck up with the shells are usually discarded but we are making designer pearls out of them. We give these pearls different shapes like Om, the Taj Mahal, Lord Buddha, Lord Shiva. These designer pearls can be worn as pendants with chains and in other forms of jewellery."
A Pearl is an organic gem, created when an oyster covers a foreign object with beautiful layers of nacre.
Earlier, thousands of oysters had to be searched to locate a pearl as such pearls were rare and only the fortunate could manage one. Modern science, however, has enabled pearl development through culture process.
In pearl culture, beads made of shell are placed inside a saltwater oyster or freshwater mussel, which is then returned to the water. The oyster covers the bead with layers of nacre and later the pearls are harvested.