- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) - When buying a piece of jewelry typically one goes to a shop to browse through a collection behind a glass case, but when it comes to picking a piece of jewelry by Joshua Zike, it requires sifting through a tank filled with water and oysters.

Customers can get their hands dirty by fishing for their next unique pearl with Zike, who owns a company called Pearl Odyssey.

Zike, a Shelton resident, travels to fairs, bridal parties, events, and people’s homes to give them what he calls “an adventure.”

People interested in purchasing a pearl get to pick their own oyster and it’s opened on the spot to reveal their pearl. Then the pearl is set on the piece of jewelry of their choice, also done right there. Rings, necklaces, and earrings are available to choose from.

“We make jewelry, but we sell adventure,” said Zike.

Every oyster is different and every pearl is unique, he said. White, pink, black, brown, and purple are just a few of the pearl colors that Zike has seen throughout the years.

“It’s a mystery to it every time you pick and something different comes up,” said Joseph Zike, Zike’s father who helps with the business. “People really get into it. The parties get really exciting, people jumping around and screaming and hollering.”

While Zike has a workshop in Wallingford on Quinnipiac Street where he creates a lot of the jewelry, all of his business comes from traveling to home parties and events around the state, New York, and Massachusetts. Zike doesn’t own a store for Pearl Odyssey.

He creates prototypes of the jewelry in his workshop using wax, silver, and other tools to shape and perfect the jewelry, which takes him hundreds of hours.

He does about 100 parties a year and 60 big events that include the Daffodil Festival in Meriden, Oyster Festival in Milford, and even Comic Cons.

When the business was first started years ago by Zike’s mother and aunt, it was called Pick A Pearl. Then his father, Joseph Zike, helped with the business. Then they retired from it and about five years ago Zike decided he wanted to start it up again, but with a different name.

For events and parties, he brings his tank, oysters, and jewelry.

Growing up around the business was something he loved to do and his experience allowed him to create his own.

“They would have me open the oysters and help out,” said Zike.

Years ago his family used to farm the oysters and keep them in tanks but this time around Zike does it differently.

The oysters are vacuumed packed and mostly come from China, but Zike says he sometimes orders from Thailand, Singapore, or Japan.

At two-years-old the oyster farmers implant it with a 2 millimeter sized bead that is made from the shell of a clam. The bead irritates the oyster and it begins to coat the bead with nacre.

Nacre, known as the mother of pearl, is a material that creates the outer, shiny coating of pearls and is very strong.

The pearl is grown to about 6 or 7 millimeters.

Once he has an event, he opens the package of oysters and puts them in tanks.

“People have fun,” said Zike. “It adds something to it.”

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