How India is building a pearl farming industry

In 2016 Narendra Garwa was facing a desperate financial situation. His small book store in the village of Renwal, Rajasthan, was running at a loss.

With a family to support and little education, he searched the internet for other money-making ideas. He had some success growing vegetables in plastic bottles, but then came across a potentially more profitable crop - pearls.

"Rajasthan is a dry area with water issues. It was a challenge to think of growing pearls with limited water but I decided to try," he says.

Pearls are formed when a mollusc reacts to an irritant in its protective membrane. The mollusc deposits layers of aragonite and conchiolin, which together form nacre, also know as mother-of-pearl.

In the wild, pearl formation is rare so most pearls sold these days are from farmed molluscs, usually oysters or freshwater mussels.

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