Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Black pearl producer to commercialise gem


A self-taught Indian scientist who has produced the world's largest black pearl is looking to commercialise his pearl culture technique that has the potential to change the profile of the country's gem and jewellery exports in a single stroke.

Ajai Kumar Sonkar, who is often mistaken for a jeweller, feels that commercialisation of the technique could make India a net exporter of the magnificent gem -- tales of which abound in Indian history.

Although India's gem and jewellery exports stood at over USD 17 billion in 2006-07, the country last year imported USD 7.24 million worth of raw pearls.

Even the famed Hyderabadi pearls are simply finished products of freshwater pearls imported from China. Roughly 80 per cent of the world pearl market is dominated by Japan, followed by Australia and China.

Japan's monopoly was created owing to the fact it held the technique to create nucleus -- the raw material for pearl culture -- that is implanted in the oyster through a surgery.

Sonkar, who has mastered production of nucleus and had presented his work before President A P J Abdul Kalam in August 2004, said he had received offers from corporates for enabling mass production. But, Sonkar turned them down as they insisted on exclusivity over technology that he could conceive in future.

The scientist had earlier announced that he has developed a 22mm nucleus, besting Japan's record of 18mm. In other words, the bigger the nucleus, the greater the size of pearls.

"My aim is to create jobs for hundreds of thousands of people by making this technology commercial, but cannot allow my research to become a casualty to this process," said Sonkar, 35, who founded the Pearl Aquaculture Research Foundation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

His interest to mass-produce pearls is significant given the failure of government labs to perfect pearl culture despite over three decades of research.

"Being a valuable product, a project could earn huge foreign exchange... (besides) offer hundreds of jobs to the youth," he said.

Sonkar, who started working independently, perfected the technique to produce nucleated spherical pearls in freshwater and later transited activity to marine pearl culture.

According to him, the best pearls are those produced in marine water, as the freshwater mussels are irregular in shape and chiefly contain calcite calcium carbonate that lacks the pearly component.

Sonkar said the world's most prominent species of pearl oysters 'Pinctada Margaritifera', 'Pinctada Maxima' and 'Pinctada fucata' are available off the Indian archipelago and the climatic conditions were favourable for producing pearls.

His lab also hatches oysters, which are later selected and prepared for the nucleus implantation. The oysters are then transferred to the sea and brought back to the lab after six months to two years for harvest.

Arafura Pearls Holdings Announces a joint venture with Arrow Pearl Co Pty Ltd


Pty Ltd and associates to manage its pearling operation at Beagle Bay on the
Dampier Peninsula in WA for an initial term of 2.5 years, with options at
Arafura’s election to extend the arrangement for a further 12.5 years.
The Beagle Bay operation is one of Western Australia’s well known pearl farms
having produced quality pearl harvests since the early 1980’s. The farm has
15,000 annual wild shell quota allowing approx 18,000 shells to be put into
production this calendar year. However, the land and sea based infrastructure is
significant and is capable of handling much higher production and grow out shell
Arafura Pearls CEO, Andrew Hewitt said the arrangement made strategic sense
for Arafura and was another significant milestone in the company’s development
giving it a Western Australian presence for the first time.
“We believe this will lead to other opportunities for the company in Western
Australia and assist in achieving our goal of becoming one of Australia’s leading
pearling groups”, he said.
As part of financing the JV arrangement, Arafura Pearls is finalising
documentation issuing $1.5 million in secured convertible notes to two existing
shareholders who are unrelated parties to the company. The convertible notes
have a three (3) year term, an interest rate 5.5% above the 180 day bank bill
rate, and may be converted at the greater of $0.45 and 80% of the volume
weighted market price at the time of conversion.
Mr Hewitt said that he was encouraged by the investor interest shown in the
convertible note issue at these conversion prices.

Further information visit arafurapearls.com.au or contact:
Andrew Hewitt
Chief Executive Officer
Tel: (08) 9382 4818
Mob: 0419 903 940

Japan show attracts over 16,000 buyers


July 03, 2007

Kobe, Japan—The 11th International Jewellery Kobe 2007 (IJK) brought in a record-breaking 16,167 professional buyers from Japan and abroad between May 17-19 at the Kobe International Exhibition Hall in Kobe.

The show also featured a record-breaking 633 exhibitors from 24 countries.

IJK show management cited the increased interest from attendees and exhibitors as an indication of the show's importance as a leading business venue for the jewelry trade.

In addition to increased attendance, IJK's gross available exhibition space has grown by 50 percent since a new extension wing was added to the exhibition hall in 2006. Country pavilions at the show included Hong Kong, Italy and Taiwan, and the record number of visitors to the show came from 33 countries.

The show features the world's largest exhibition of pearls, with leading companies from Ise, Kobe, Tokyo and others exhibiting their latest products. Also on display were diamond and colored-stone collections.

Exhibitors reported increased sales at the show this year, a trend that has characterized IJK.

"We were able to conduct very fruitful business negotiations at this year's IJK," said Shuro Uemoto, director of Australian opal company Mariora Corp. "More buyers are becoming aware of how convenient access to the IJK venue is from Kobe Airport, and this year we were able to meet important buyers from all over Japan. We regard IJK as a very important trade show where one is able to have good business negotiations with high-quality buyers."

The event is the largest of its kind in Western Japan, an area that accounts for more than half of the country's jewelry market.

Mother-of-pearl -- Classic beauty and remarkable strength

MADISON -- While the shiny material of pearls and abalone shells has long been prized for its iridescence and aesthetic value in jewelry and decorations, scientists admire mother-of-pearl for other physical properties as well.

Also called nacre ("NAY-ker"), mother-of-pearl is 3,000 times more fracture-resistant than the mineral it is made of, aragonite, says Pupa Gilbert, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "You can go over it with a truck and not break it - you will crumble the outside [of the shell] but not the [nacre] inside. And we don't understand how it forms - that's why it's so fun to study."

Understanding the mechanism by which nacre forms would be the first step toward harnessing its strength and simplicity, she says. "We don't know how to synthesize materials that are better than the sum of their parts."

Writing in the June 29 issue of Physical Review Letters, Gilbert and her colleagues in the UW-Madison department of physics and School of Veterinary Medicine, the Institute for the Physics of Complex Matter in Switzerland and the UW-Madison Synchrotron Radiation Center, now describe unexpected elements of nacre architecture that may underlie its strength and offer clues into how this remarkable material forms.

Like our bones and teeth, nacre is a biomineral, a combination of organic molecules - made by living organisms - and mineral components that organisms ingest or collect from their environment. The aragonite mineral in nacre is made of calcium carbonate, which marine animals form from elements abundant in seawater.

Though a mere 5 percent of abalone nacre is organic, this small fraction somehow lays enough foundation for the mineral components to assemble spontaneously, Gilbert says.

"Ninety-five percent of the mass of this biomineral is self-assembled, while only 5 percent is actively formed by the organism," she says. "It is one of the most efficient mechanisms you can think of."

To gain insight into this self-assembly process, Gilbert and graduate student Rebecca Metzler examined the structure of abalone nacre using synchrotron radiation - light emitted by electrons speeding around a curved track.

When used to examine a cross-section of an abalone shell, previously seen to resemble a brick wall with layers of organic "mortar" separating individual crystalline "bricks," the polarized light from the synchrotron revealed that the nacre wall was not uniform.

Instead, the wall contained distinct clumps of bricks, each an irregular column of crystals with identical composition but a crystal orientation different than neighboring columns.

Since orientation affects how crystals emit electrons, "some of the columns of bricks appear white and others appear black and more appear gray, depending on their crystal orientation," Gilbert explains.

The overall effect resembles a camouflage pattern, each roughly columnar cluster a slightly different shade. More at http://www.eurekalert.org/

Other info can be found at: http://www.earthtimes.org/ and http://www.upi.com/

Contact: Pupa Gilbert
University of Wisconsin-Madison