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The Measure of Cultural Success

Even with the success of modern pearl culturing techniques, the number of "perfect" pearls produced each year is still remarkably low. Experts estimate that among Japanese Akoya Pearl Oysters, for example, roughly half the nucleated oysters do not produce pearls, 25 percent will produce only poor quality pearls and 20 percent will produce salable pearls of low to medium quality. Only 5 percent will produce top-grade, gem-quality pearls. In 1999, Japanese pearl farmers harvested approximately 430 million mollusks to produce around 21 million gem-quality pearls. Percentages vary somewhat among species of mollusks and from country to country, but the outcome is the same: perfect pearls are still exceptionally uncommon.

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