Feature Gems & Gemology, Summer 1995, Vol. 31, No. 2

History of Pearling in La Paz Bay, South Baja California

The history of Baja California has been closely tied to the exploitation of pearls since the 16th century. Using rudimentary diving techniques for most of this era, European and Mexican entrepreneurs recovered vast amounts of fine, dark pearls from this region. However, years of overfishing inevitably led to decades when the oyster beds were all but barren. Introduction of the diving suit in the 19th century extended the depth of the beds that could be fished, but overexploitation continued largely unchecked. Cultivation of the pearl oyster Pinctada mazatlanica by Gaston Vives, between 1903 and 1914, greatly slowed exhaustion of the natural stock. His company, CCCP, represented the world's first large-scale cultivation of pearl oysters, and many of Vives's discoveries are used today in renewed pearl-oyster cultivation and pearl-culturing activities in Baja California.