Pearls, I’ve blogged about their significance to me and other more eminent ladies before, I return to these bulbous ocean treasures. I have mentioned that they are significant to me because they are a favourite adornment of my mother who plays a central role in my life. During my research about the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, which my mum and I recently visited, I discovered there were three pearl farms: Mum was delighted. Neither of us are experts so the farm we ended up visiting was based on the recommendation of our hotel, this was the ‘Australian’ Phu Quoc Pearl Farm (as opposed to Long Beach or Japanese Pearl Farm).
Like many of the buildings on the island, Phu Quoc Pearl Farm is rather sandy and weather beaten in appearance. Outside, under a basic shelter sat two figures around a pool, one a slight Vietnamese girl; the other, a tanned Australian gentleman with a grey natural pearl looped around his neck. The gentleman, Michael Ramsden, greeted us and explained briefly about the different colours and qualities of oyster creations available at the farm. As I said, Mum and I are no experts on distinguishing the diverging qualities of pearls so we somewhat frankly asked Mr Ramsden how we were to tell the difference between the fast growing, fresh water ones from their larger, ocean counterparts. “Check the price” Mr Ramsden smiled, “I trust with what I’ve told you you’ll be able to work it out.”
Of course, Mum and I gravitated and salivated over the rare quality pieces in special display cases. Prising ourselves away we inspected the thousands of rings, pendants, earrings, bracelets and collar pieces on offer. Mr Ramsden was right, when lined up next to each other the different qualities are rather easier to distinguish. Interestingly, the majority of Westerners prefer the ununiformed appearance of natural, salt water pearls compared to Asians who tend to gravitate to farmed varieties which are identical to each other.
What lay before me was indeed beautiful but nothing especially grabbed my eye. Mum, on the other hand was in her element, admiring everything like a child in a toy shop. She tried various bracelets and necklaces on but was unimpressed with the aesthetic value and fiddliness of the clasps. She sulked out expressed this to Mr Ramsden who escorted her back into the hut-like shop and explained to the rather grumpy assistant that she need to restring the pearls on to a new clasp. Now the girl realised Mum was serious about buying something her mood picked up. Working in a shop myself I can only sympathise with the assistant, it is so wearing when person after person requests to see pieces with no real intention of buying.
Once Mum had selected her desired necklace with matching bracelet and earrings, we haggled for a group discount and I watched the white balls be repositioned onto new string. Mum actually owns a cheap string of pearls of a similar ½ inched sized balls but she hated knowing that they were not the real deal, having the genuine article and having something to reminded her of our trip clearly meant a lot to her.
Every evening , for the rest of the holiday, Mum wore all three pieces together. Like me she prefers buying trophies which can transport her back to a happy memory and time; in the case of these pearls they will take her to a place of warmth, laziness and fragrant food.