Implanting 3 Year Old Oysters
When the oysters are three years old, they are ready to be grafted. You know by now that when I speak of oysters, I am talking about saltwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are a little different, cultured in mussels and I will get into that in a later blog.
Grafting is the process of implanting a foreign object into the oyster. Oysters try to reject the object by creating a pearl sac around the object. The "object" implanted into oysters is a very specific round bead made from the shell of a mussel only found in the Mississippi river in the USA. Seriously. Also, a piece of mantle tissue from a sacrificed oyster is placed into the oyster next to the nucleus bead. The mantle tissue contains various cell information that determines the color and quality of the pearl. the pearl sac secretes nacre in a very exacting process over and over again. Each of the layers of nacre are only one micron thickness. Very thin. One micron is only 1/10th of a millimeter. Grafting is an extremely delicate procedure. It is truly surgery by a highly trained technician. An interesting fact is that most of the grafters are female. Hm. Wonder why.
If the nucleus is not rejected, it will grow into a cultured pearl. Bon appetit.