At our open-water sea lease, 10 nautical miles off the coast of Broome, Melanie Carrington tells us about her role as a Pearl Technician at harvest time...
Mel can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Melanie Carrington and I reside in the town of Broome with my Husband and 4 children. I was born and raised in Perth living by the sea, and moved to Broome in 1992 to begin my career in the Pearling Industry, which I continue to do today.
As a Pearl Technician, what is your job during harvest?
During harvest my job entails a careful surgical incision in the pearl oysters gonad to extract the pearl; review the quality of the pearl and implant a bead/nucleus back into the pearl sac of the oyster.
What is your favourite part about harvest time?
The surprise factor of not knowing what each oyster will produce and enjoying the ‘wow’ factor harvesting the stunning pearls from each oyster.
How did you become a Pearl Technician and how long did it take?
I initially worked as a deckhand assisting the highly skilled Japanese Pearl Technicians supplying them with shell to continuously Seed and Harvest throughout the day. Through friendship, trust and working hard, I built up a rapport between myself and the Japanese Pearl Technicians.
One day I asked if I could learn. From that day I didn’t look back, but it was not as easy to do as it looks! It took me approximately 5 years to learn and perfect under the guidance of the Japanese Technicians.
Are there many female Technicians?
In the Australian South Sea Pearling Industry, I would say that the male to female Pearl Technician ratio is equal.
What qualities do you think a Pearl Technician needs to be successful?
The main qualities I believe you initially need to have are; Patience; Concentration; Perseverance; Willingness to Learn and Passion.
What is the best part about your job?
I thoroughly enjoy the challenge to produce a harvest of all round pearls, but I think that would spoil the fun. The best part for me really is working with a great bunch of crew doing their job to compliment our particular role in the Pearling Industry. Team work is the critical key for a successful outcome at harvest.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Maintaining concentration for 8 hours every day on 500 to 600 individual oysters.
How long do you spend out at sea in a year?
Approximately 3 to 4 months working on the neap tides.
What do you find so special about Australian South Sea Cultured Pearls?
Australian South Sea Pearls truly are the most beautiful of any pearls produced around the world. The Pinctada Maxima oyster is very special and unique with its ability to produce thick, lustrous coatings of nacre and naturally produced colours, make it second to none to any other pearls produced around the world. I have total respect for our Australian oyster and what nature provides, to grow our flawless, beautiful pearls.
What's the most surprising thing you’ve ever seen when opening an oyster?
An Oyster which must have had about 15 small Keshi Pearls embedded within the oyster's gonad tissue. Amazing and extremely rare!
You can view our stunning collection of Australian South Sea Pearls here.