The article follows John Thomas Osbourne, "a shellfish aquaculture researcher, is opening new doors for North Carolina's coastal economy. He and business partner Nelson Bullock are trying to grow jewel-quality, saltwater black pearls in state waters.
But these pearls aren't from oysters. They are from pen shells, an enormous clam-like mollusk found in North Carolina.
From boyhood curiosity to lustrous reality, it's a winding journey that's taken Osborne across the world to Queensland, Australia and back to the Wilmington coast. A journey inspired by an innocent bout of mischief over two decades ago.
Here's some more from the article about pearls:
As a trade term, "pearl" alone can only denote a naturally formed pearl, caused by whatever random incidence in the life of the animal. Understandably, the chance of finding a perfectly round pearl in nature is statistically small — hence the higher prices they command over cultured pearls.
But the ultimate value of a pearl is in the eye of the beholder, Osborne says. In a time when some fisheries and coastal trades are struggling, he hopes their black pearls will evoke a sense of pride for North Carolina's coastal communities and its visitors.
"Fundamentally, it's shiny stuff. But jewelry is a gift you give to people that's permanent. It generally commemorates an event, a thought or a place. That's where that value is. Then if you've got people proud to be in North Carolina, people who are proud to be buying something that's American, they're going to see that."