Brisbane, QLD

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kimberley and Top End (Part3) -Willie Creek Pearl Farm

In the early 20th century Broome was booming. People came from Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, China and Europe to work in the pearling industry.However, trade slowed with WW1, the depression, and WW2. The large Japanese population was interned and their luggers destroyed.(The story is that the local police let the Japanese out during the day to continue diving for the businesses and then they were locked up again at night.)
After the war business was slow and then plastic buttons were invented, which rduced the world markets furher. However the industry was saved by the advent of cultured pearls. Today Broome produces 80% of the world's best quality pearls.
Before leaving Broome on day3 we were taken to the Willie Creek Pearl farm for an informative tour.

We were told how highly skilled technicians insert a nucleus under the gonad of the oyster.

The technicians have to work through the tiny opening of the bivalve.

The gonad is the small orangey lump in the middle. The white meat can be eaten. It is exported too. The shell is returned to the water hanging in a special rack where it is turned and cleaned regularly for two years. Hopefully by then the oyster has coated the nucleus with layers of shiny nacre and produces this.......

We were taught how to judge the worth of pearls by observing the shape, the skin, the colour and the lustre. They can fetch thousands of dollars.

We were taken on a boat to where the shells are farmed. Each buoy has a rack attached to it.

They pull the rack up and check for disease and clean the algae off with a brush. Turn them around and then suspend them in the water again.

On the way back to shore there was a lot of bird life in the mangrove trees. This is an egret.

Of course we were ushered into the shop before leaving. We had fun trying to guess the worth of the necklaces. This one being modelled by Pauline was worth thousands.

Can you tell which string of pearls is the fake?

I'll tell you on my next post.


  1. I had no idea that Broome was such a major source for pearls. This is very interesting.
    I love all the photos but the heron is my favorite.
    My guess for the fake pearls is the one on the left on the red.

  2. Ok - my selection are the pearls on the red background?
    Again wonderful reporting on your trip.


  3. Okay, my guess on the fake pearls is the one on the right. I believe the ones on the red are the real pearls.

    Wonderful article too.

  4. That would have been something for me ! I love pearls. They fit on everything ! and the history lesson was interesting too !

  5. Hi there Diane, VERY interesting... I enjoyed hearing about Broome and the pearls. Too bad about the Japanese though--but unfortunately that happens everywhere. God says that we are all created equal--but we don't believe it, do we?

    The shiny one on the right is probably the fake--although I've always liked shiny pearl necklaces.

    Have a great day.

  6. Diane I can not get enough of the water...the color is so clean...shame can not just jump in....that is the worst part about the heavy crocodile population.

    lizzie b

  7. It's so good to find out about your adventures! You were missed. This is quite the place.

  8. Oh my! Your trip was lovely! Love the pearls..I'm kinda "into" pearls right now, but just cultured ones --The scenery is awesome some of your photos should be used by the tourist people! Thanks for taking me along on another computer-chair travel!

  9. That was very interesting. Great pictures and tour guiding! I have never been to the top end.

  10. You know, I just do not think there is anything more beautiful than pearls. Put a strand of pearls around a woman's neck, and some pretty pearl earrings and she looks beautiful.

    To this these come from ugly oyster shells is amazing to me.

  11. wow! fabulous, very pretty.. I love pearls too..

  12. My guess is the one on the right is fake?

  13. Without having looked at the next post, I would guess the ones on the left are fake because they are so alike in size and so round.

  14. Ooo ... love some of these photos. I tried to get shots of the insemination process but it all moved too fast for me with not enough light. You did very well.