Exclusive with Justin Hunter
An Inside Look at What Really Goes Into Pearl Farming

Pearls often bring up memories of grandmothers, elderly aunts, and royalty— usually portrayed with beloved strands of pearls around their necks, which was a sign of being ladylike in earlier times. These days, however, pearls have taken on a new life, as they are worn in luxury jewelry by the Gen-Xer and the Millennial, as well. Pearls in translucent, dazzling colors, all natural, and in unusual shapes are often quite rare and expensive. 

Pearls like these are the result of perfected work: great pearl farming in warm waters with rich flora. It is not everywhere that such gems can be found, but one place where they can be seen and the long farming process can be understood is at J. Hunter Pearls in Fiji's Savusavu Bay. 

Justin Hunter is the CEO, owner and founder of this small company. He was not the first pearl farmer on Fiji— rather, he relates, in the late '50s and early '60s, many Japanese and Australian pearl farming projects came to the unique island. These waters were home to two species of oysters: the Black Lip (Pinctada Margaritifera Cumingi) which produces a black pearl, and the Pinctada Margaritifera Typica, a pearl with diverse colorations. The latter species was rare, even for Fiji, but they did exist. Many farmers eventually left Fiji for Tahiti, where the black pearl industry became profitable due to the plentiful Black Lips oysters.

But Justin Hunter has a different attitude toward pearl farming and its future. Perhaps it is because of his youth, or perhaps it is because of his Fijian and Samoan heritage that he understands the nuances of the rich Fijian culture. He also claims to intuitively read the sky and ocean as, arguably, only a native can. But best of all, his success has allowed him to become deeply involved in working with the Fijians, to provide jobs and better education through scholarships for the children of Savusavu.

I recently asked him about his origins and how they relate to his mission and vision. His work defines a new sense of organicity, eco-sensitivity, and a regard for the living bivalve, where all of his pearls are born. 

JL: Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school? 

JH: My early years were spent in Savusavu, Fiji.  From the age of 14, I lived with my father’s sister and her family in the U.S. I went to high school in Olympia, Washington and then went on to Seattle Pacific University and received a degree in Biology with an emphasis in the marine sector.

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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