TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Whenever I travel, I look for what is the valuable souvenir I can buy in the destination I am in. I try to buy what is best to be bought in that place, because it is abundantly available, or only available there or it is cheaper there. But most of the time I based the souvenir I buy on its rarity, value, and whether it’s the defining product of the place.
Palawan is a pearl haven for me, hence when I visited, I know instantly that my target souvenir to buy is Pearl. Palawan has been once famous when a poor fisherman has uncovered the world’s largest natural clam pearl weighing 34kg. Moreover, the Philippines is a traditional source of natural pearls and shells. Historically, an ancient trade route called the Pearl Road is where Chinese merchants traded with the sea-faring nomads for pearls called Badjao and Palawan is a part of this road. The Badjaos retrieved wild oysters and natural pearls nestled within the depths of the ocean which eventually has become the origin of the parent oysters in Palawan that is used to coax and farm the finest South Sea pearls.
Pearls are the only living gems in the world and currently, most pearl farming activity is located in Palawan. Pearls can grow in peace and perfection here because the environment has remained pristine and the pearl depends on the health of the nature it grows. Its lustrous surface is determined by the change in the water temperature, typhoon, and cleanliness. Pearls are the only living gems in the world.
When in Palawan, it is better that you know what kind of pearl you will buy to ensure that you have bought the best souvenir you can take home with you for yourself. In this place, there is an abundance of pearls at a bargain. Some will tell you they are selling freshwater pearl, cultured pearl, and south sea pearl, so its good to identify what kind of pearl you really want to buy. You might end up hoarding any kind of pearl because it is irresistibly tempting to buy for being sold at a cheap price. Pearls have different kinds. The rarest and valuable is the natural pearl because it is formed in nature without any human intervention. Meanwhile, all the other types of pearls are then produced with a human intervention which are classified as farmed or cultured. There are Freshwater Pearls, Tahitian Pearls, Akoya pearls, and the South Sea Pearls. Palawan is known for south sea pearls, hence when in Palawan, it is best to buy this kind of pearl.
South Sea pearl is so valuable due to its pearl value factors. It is farmed in salt water where the pearls are grown in a large oyster shell called Pinctada Maxima. This oyster is gold-lipped that makes it capable of growing large, lustrous and naturally deep rich golden color pearl, which is the signature characteristic of the South Sea pearls and only produced in the Philippines. However, it can also come in warm, natural colors that range from white, crème rose, and champagne. It is also valuable because it can take some time to create a strand of matched pearls. There is no color ordering available because the pearl only takes on any color of the inside shell of the oyster. Moreover, with regard to size, the Philippine South Sea pearls are the largest in the world and have its unique Orient which is the luster or inner glow of the pearl that produces a fiery rainbow-like effect.
Certainly, pearls in Palawan are abundant and really sold in low in price. However, knowing pearl test is also good so you wouldn’t be easily enticed with the pearls being sold everywhere. It will help you to sort the real valuable ones that are worth the price. In the port of Palawan where the Honda Bay tour boats are docked, vendors offering pearls flock the area. Upon approaching me, they have demonstrated that their pearls wouldn’t get covered with soot nor melt like plastics even they burn them with their lighter and this is one of the ways of doing a pearl test. Other ways to test it is when you clench your teeth on the pearl, it shouldn’t break and when you rub it off on a rough surface it doesn’t scratch. Meanwhile, the easiest pearl test is just to look at its skin purity. While having a flawless surface is ideal, remember that pearls are a gem created by nature, ergo it determines how it would look. The surface of the Philippine South Sea pearl may possess irregularities on its surface and these “imperfections” are part of the pearl’s natural characteristics that are used to authenticate them.
While in Palawan, I bought cultured freshwater pearls at a very inexpensive price in MCA Market Mall Pasalubong Center. However, I found pearls with higher quality at Delma Pearl Souvenir Shop. Being confident that their pearls are natural ones that came directly from the pearl farm I was convinced to buy South Sea Pearl pair of earrings here. In this shop, the staff can give you some details about pearls and can even adjust the ring settings in case the one on the shelf does not fit, although you have to allow time for them to do it. In addition, I was told by the tour driver that I can even haggle on the price of the pearl to buy at a discounted price. Moreover, they are confident in assuring the buyers about the authenticity of their pearls. They even give a certificate of authenticity upon purchase which states the quality of the pearl, ensuring that the item is made with 100% genuine high-quality cultured pearl and contains a detailed description of the bought jewelry.
Hence when you visit this pearl abundant place, make sure to take home a kind of it as a souvenir in your Palawan Trip. As for me, whenever I see my pearls I instantly remember Palawan and my whole experience on it.
Acknowledgment to pike.com.au, Jewelmer, & pilotguides.com
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. All expenses were shouldered by the author. All photos are from Kaycie Gayle