People ask me all the time if I want to start my own pearl farm. I am not sure I could ever imagine life as a pearl farmer. I have met pearl farmers before and their's does not seem to be an easy or glorious lifestyle. They are farmers, after all, dealing in a live, fluctuating industry with high risk and sometimes, zero returns. My entire family used to farm and we have all heard the tales of the bad years. The bad years caused my uncle to close his peach farm back in the 1980s. So, a backyard pearl farm, I am not sure how that would even be viable!
Well, one family in India have made that backyard pearl farm a reality! In a small town in the Navsari district is South Gujarat, Bhargav Desai and his father, Sanjay used their own backyard pond and started culturing pearls!
See the inlet just West of the marker on the map? This is the Gulf of Khambhat and it is more commonly known for cultured pearl farms culturing saltwater pearls. Well, living inland did not stop the Desai family. Many years ago Bhargav watched a TV documentary on aquaculture which inspired he and his dad to enroll in a fifteen day course at the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture at Bhubaneswar.
They stocked their 1 hectare pond with oysters and they have been running a successful pearl farm ever since! In fact, they have cultured more than 15,000 pearls. And then there is this beauty!
An almost 48 carat pink pearl (with Bhargav!)
The Desai family will have up to 70,000 oysters in their pond at one time. "But only about 20% survive. Every two years, we get pearls 20% of which are good quality beads and around 10% of inferior variety," cousin Swetal Desai says. And their profits? Their pearls sell anywhere between Rs5,00 and Rs 2,50,000... or US$7 to US$3800.
This is more than they could make in agriculture. And that pink pearl? Well that could fetch up to a million dollars!
Maybe a backyard pearl farm sounds tempting after all!