Entrepreneur Tosses Pearls at Jewel's Feet
By Natalie Best
the beautiful gems of Cleopatra, are making a comeback and may have
a new future. New techniques, research and know-how are bringing
the pearl industry to America, and one man's vision may result in
bringing major offices of that industry to La Jolla.
Paul Cross, CEO and president of Island Pearls, LLC, is developing
proprietary technology that uses mollusk shells, a natural resource
found only in the U.S., to manufacture nuclei for the seeding of
pearls. This jeweler from Hawaii is in the aquaculture development
field, as the pearl industry is known today, and plans to go head-to-head
with the Japanese in all phases of pearl production. "While
the world once considered Japan the headquarters of pearls, this
is no longer the situation," said Cross, now of La Jolla. "My primary
goal is to take pearl sales away from the Japanese."
said that the Japanese monopoly of pearl production, which lasted
for over 105 years due to misinformation and secrecy, has been uncovered
and challenged and will be over. "We've not only learned new methods
to grow pearls and control the standards of the beautiful gems, but
we have also saved the future of pearls," said Cross, a dynamic young
man of dreams, yet a realist.
said Japan has squandered the endangered mollusk that produces the
now sought-after freshwater pearls and degraded pearl quality by
allowing insufficient growing time. "Japan has ruined its own pearl
future," he said.
and three other Americans in the aquaculture business say it is more
than a $87 million a year business, "if it is protected and treated
right." The American pearl business has major growing fields in Mexico,
Hawaii and in the mid-U.S., including the Mississippi drainage waters
in Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana which are now home for the abalone
used in pearl production. Oysters -- long accepted pearl origin --
are now in very limited and costly production, while the increased
use of American abalone shells means the beginning of the new American
Cross began pearl production of both mabe (Japanese for hemispherical)
pearls and rounds, which have never been cultivated successfully
in abalone before. Cross used abalone in Hawaii that he personally
developed. Then in October of this year Cross began pilot tests in
abalone's in conjunction with Aqua Farms of Carlsbad. With the assistance
of the farm's scientific advisor, Dr. David Leighton of Scripps Institution
of Oceanography, Cross has had the opportunity to work with the prized
green abalone, as well as hybrids of green and red abalone which
can produce spectacular color combinations with extremely high iridescence. "Eventually
Island Pearls, LLC will offer joint-venture opportunity to cultivate
this precious pearl, unique to California," Cross said.
also credits malacologist Clifton Coney, operator of mollusks, Los
Angeles Museum of National History; and Dr. Jerry Harasaywich of
Smithsonian Institute and Stanford Research Institute, with help
in the exhaustive research and development techniques of mollusk
implantation, antibiotics, bio-coatings and anti-rejection devices. "We
now plan to create the unique and beautifully exotic La Jolla Pearl
and first Mickey Mouse Disneyland pearl for public display in the
spring of 1999," Cross said.
estimated that pearls would be available by summer of 1999.
The Return of the American Pearl
Southern California is pearl harvester's oyster