On the Eastern edge of Guangzhou lies Yakushi Pearl Factory, a first-generation owned corporation from Japan. I took a group trip one Saturday, to see how fresh water pearls are harvested, shaped, sorted, and strung.
The Yakushi factory sources its pearls from oyster farms throughout the Yangtze River Valley. For our tour group purposes, we got to witness a few opened in the small pond in front of the factory building.
Did you know fresh water oysters grow upwards of 20 pearls per oyster? This one, pictured above, has grown five years to produce pearls of this size.
The Yakushi factory supplies pearls to big brands such as Tiffany and Cartier (now you know why I woke up on Saturday morning to go to a pearl factory). Only a few pearls from each oyster pass through Yakushi’s strict standards.
The pearls at this factory don’t go through any dye or coloration processes, only the occasional minimal, and standard, bleaching for white pearls. No one knows the exact reason for the natural color of pearls from each oyster, but it is most likely a combination of water pH, temperature, age, and other natural factors.
Look at all the pretty colors!!
The inside of the factory is as cold as the temperature outside. Workers wear slippers inside, so we too take off our shoes and change into factory-supplied slippers. Haute Japanese!
Workers are split into different rooms. In one room they are sorting pearls, in another they are drilling small holes, and in yet another the pearls are individually strung by hand. The factory is remarkably silent, as each worker whittles away at their jobs in absolute peace. It was remarkable seeing so many pearls in one place, and the workers patiently stringing each strand by hand.