The experiments went well, and we learned that not only could we control the growth conditions on land, but that the pearls grew at twice the rate of the traditionally cultivated version. The Governor was able to gain additional funding until the Orient market crashed, so the project was abandoned. But the attraction of growing a product that could be sold for $10 or $100/oyster, as opposed to $0.25 for just the eating type, remained in my memory. Neil went on to found a mariculture company growing and marketing Kona Kampachi, a desirable sashimi delicacy. He deserves a more complete blog posting, and someday, I'll do this.
Anyway, it occurred to me that, as we could regulate the growth conditions, why not try to produce colored pearls. Not only white and black, but what about Chinese Red and Kelly Green? Someday, perhaps, the Royal Hawaiian Rainbow Pearl Necklace could reach the marketplace.
I thus formed an international team of marine biotechnologists and marketers. Grant Burgess of Heriot-Watt University, associate editor of the Journal of Marine Biotechnology (JMB), began searching for marine algae which could provide the range of colors. Next to his office was the Scotch Professor of the country and on the other side was a biologist who held membership in the Royal and Ancient Club, which supervised over the Saint Andrews golf course structure. We usually held annual meetings in late August (the only period when the weather is halfway tolerable there) when the world’s largest arts festival is held in Edinburg. Unfortunately, Grant, who grew up in Edinburg, just moved to Newcastle, where they are allowed to do human cloning, not an interest of his, but, nevertheless intriguing with respect to Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. Aside from coal, what else is there in Newcastle?
In usual attendance was Tadashi Matsunaga, former editor of the JMB, and a vice-president at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, who spent a sabbatical at the University of Hawaii as the first International Professor for the Blue Revolution. We also needed to use some genetic engineering to obtain the right colored pearl. Plus, Professor Matsunaga has some ideas on how to artificially grow pearls.
A few years ago, Takeo Kondo, a colleague from Nihon University, who was advising the mayor of the city of Ago in Japan, Chihiro Takeuchi, arranged for me to give a talk on colored pearls to his community. The situation was ideal, for Kokichi Mikimoto, nearly a century earlier, had experimented on cultured pearls in the waters next to the hotel in Ago where I stayed. I learned that while this region was at one time the largest pearl producer, growth conditions were declining and the current owners were beginning to abandon the field. My recommendation was to bring deep ocean waters into their estuaries and initiate a new product, colored pearls.
It just so happened that several towns were consolidating into one city, Shima, so Mayor Takeuchi ran against the other mayors, and had on his campaign platform a new industry in colored pearls. He barely won, it is said because he had the only new idea. My first dinner with him was an incredible French meal, the second, a classical Japanese kaiseki, the third, a teppan yaki of lobster, steak, and foie gras over bottles of bourdeaux and, on my latest visit, barbecued Matsusaka beef, said to be better (and more expensive) than Kobe beef. Matsusaka, also spelled Matsuzaka, is adjacent to Shima City. I'm trying to sell the concept to Ago/Shima, but, because of honor and territorial cultural imperative, perhaps, Mayor Takeuchi always picked up the tab. He'll love Zippy's in Hawaii, and so will Chisako, wife, communicator (she teaches English), inspiration and balance to the Mayor.
If you someday see pearls of intense hue in your jewelers, chances are that this team had something to do with the introduction. The question is whether we will be doing this using the traditional oyster farm or just a laboratory growth chamber.