Pearl Pioneers- Nicholas Paspaley (Picture of Nick and his sister in 1932)
It all started out as a wonderful wild adventure for 19 year old Nick Paspaley in the 1930s.
As a budding entrepreneur, Greek born Nick bought his first pearling lugger in the 30s. He had worked in the pearling industry aboard his father's pearl fleet starting at the age of 14. At that time, Broome in the NW coast of Australia was the premier pearling port for mother of pearl production. Mother of pearl was used to produced buttons, a major industry at that time. But in the 50s, with the development of plastic buttons, the mother of pearl button industry was devastated.
At the beginning of WWII, the Australian government had all of the pearl luggers destroyed to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese. After WWII ended, Paspaley purchased four luggers and resumed his mother of pearl harvests until hte 50s.
Beyond the perilous waters off the NW coast of Australia, there many other very dangerous of collecting oysters for mother of pearl. It was all done by hard hat diving in waters with frequent cyclones.
So, in the 50s, Nick decided to take a different approach to the pearling industry. Much like the Akoya pearl cultivation in Japan, he dreamed of cultivating the native Pinctada Maxima oyster to produce the largest and most valuable pearl-the cultured South Sea Pearl.
Nick negotiated a collaboration with the Kuribayashi family of Japan, who had a large pearling fleet that would come from Japan every year to collect oysters for the mother of pearl market. At hte same time, he employed the experts from the Iwasaki/Mitsubishi project to start the cultivation of the native Pinctada Maxima oysters.
The venture was very successful with this technology and produced the most beautiful and valuable pearls in the world, the South Sea Pearl. It now had this distinct designation. The important pearling industry had once again become important in leading jewelry houses, commanding prices hundreds of times higher than the Japanese Akoya pearl prices.
Nicholas Paspaley had lived an adventurous and glamorous life, to realize his dream to create the cultured pearl with the same qualities as the natural South Sea pearls.
His family have continued and increased the fleets, technologies, and designs for the Paspaley Pearling Company.