Harvesting a Priceless Pearl

Owner Robert Banfield with Don Pearl.

There is really only one guarantee in pearl farming – you never know what you are going to find!  The nature of this work means that you can combine all the elements to create a pearl – the tides, temperatures and nutrient rich waters where the pearl producing Pinctada maxima oyster thrives, alongside meticulous husbandry practices by the pearling team who care for each oyster, and you could never guess the virtues of the pearl inside until the breath-taking moment the oyster is opened and the pearl is revealed. This is what makes pearl farming so fascinating!

The morning of the priceless pearl harvest started like any other. The Tour Guide at Willie Creek Pearl Farm selected an oyster at random from the Hatchery, the first segment of the tour. Young guest Mitchell was the Oyster Carer for the tour, carrying the single panel which held the oyster during the boat ride along the creek, keeping it safe while the group spotted local flora and fauna, including resident crocodile Nigel!

Guests then headed to the pearl masterclass, a segment of the tour where guests learn more about the oyster and its anatomy, followed by the big reveal. As young Mitchell handed the oyster over, Tour Guide Caleb van Veen inspected its health. A third seeded oyster (having produced 2 pearls previously), the shell displayed damage from cliona (a harmful sea sponge). Caleb explained to the group that this was not a good sign for the quality of the pearl.

A collective gasp by the group as Caleb pulled the shell open confirmed otherwise! A huge pearl was clearly visible! As young Mitchell assisted Caleb to remove the pearl with tweezers, the true size was revealed – the tweezers couldn’t reach around it! Excitement grew within the group as Caleb completed a once in a lifetime harvest. All of the elements of pearl farming had aligned to create this beautiful, rare pearl. Two years of care, weathering the vast tides and tropical Kimberley conditions, years of progressive and innovative work by the pearling team, resulting in this one-of-a-kind, priceless pearl.

As the group of conspiring guests headed into the showroom, young Mitchell casually placed the pearl in the hand of Robert Banfield, Owner of Willie Creek Pearls. Its safe to say that this was an emotional day for Robert! This amazing, rare pearl was measured at 20.12mm. Round, with excellent lustre and pink gem tones, weighing an impressive 11.847g (or 3.159 momme), this pearl is the single most valuable pearl ever harvested at Willie Creek Pearl Farm!

Christened ‘Don’ as a tribute to Don Banfield, the late father to Robert and his siblings (and husband of Valda), this extraordinary gem features all the desirable characteristics of valuable pearls, based on the five virtues - shape, size, colour, complexion and lustre.

Don is proudly displayed at the Pearl Farm, a new and exciting tour highlight! For Robert, Caleb and the guests of this tour, particularly young Mitchell, their day at the Pearl Farm will certainly be one they will never forget, while the tour guides are holding their breath just a little bit more at every harvest!


Reading next

Caravan & Camping WA come to Willie Creek Pearl Farm (S2 Ep2.2)
The Timeless Elegance Of Pearl Jewellery: Seven Decades In Review

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