Have you ever wondered about the big pools of water on the counter in the middle of the Japan Pavilion at Epcot? That’s one of the Pick-A-Pearl stations at Walt Disney World. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s a Pick-A-Pearl?
The name is pretty self explanatory. At a Pick-A-Pearl station, you’ll find a large, shallow tank of water with several oysters placed on the bottom. At the station, you choose (“pick”) an oyster to buy. The cast member at the station opens the oyster in front of you, the pearl inside is yours to keep.
Is the Japan Pavilion the only place to do this at Walt Disney World?
There are actually four places to Pick-A-Pearl at Walt Disney World: inside the large Mitsukoshi store at the Japan Pavilion at Epcot, at a kiosk at Downtown Disney near the Pin Traders outpost, at a kiosk at Typhoon Lagoon, and at a kiosk on the pathway just outside the Stormalong Bay pool area at the Yacht & Beach Club resorts. While the general Pick-A-Pearl concept is the same at all the locations, they are operated by different entities, so some details may vary.
The best show is in Japan. At the Japan pavilion, you’ll typically get an enthusiastic cast member banging a drum, measuring your pearl with amazement, and a large audience watching your pearl emerge.
Isn’t this something that’s done in places other than Disney World?
Yes, the Downtown Disney, Beach Club, and Typhoon Lagoon locations are run by The Pearl Factory, which has several locations in Hawaii and Las Vegas, as well as at theme parks in California (including at Downtown Disneyland) and at several locations at Universal Studios Florida. Other operators exist as well.
What do I do with the pearl?
You can keep it loose, save it, or (more commonly) have it mounted onto a setting to create a piece of jewelry.
How large are the pearls?
They’re a natural item, so the size will vary depending on which oyster you choose. A big part of the fun is seeing the characteristics of the oyster you’ve selected. Many of the pearls will be white, sized about 6-7 mm. However, you will occasionally find much larger pearls, as well as black, gold, pink or other color variants. Even more rarely, you’ll get an oyster that has generated two pearls. If you’re lucky enough to get one of these, then they’re both yours to keep.
How much does this cost?
Prices may vary by location, but the basic choosing of the pearl costs about $16.00. Not surprisingly, having the pearl set increases the cost considerably.
What are some of the settings like?
There are lots of choices. Some of the more popular settings are silver rings or pendants with a pearl mounted as a decorative element. A basic silver ring starts at just over $30, as does a basic silver pendant (chains are extra). Price rise steeply as the settings get larger or more elaborate. The least expensive setting option would be adding posts to create stud-style earrings. This starts at about $10.
I’m interested in pearl earrings? Can you tell me more?
Sure, but if you want to get two earrings, you’ll need to pick two oysters to get two pearls. One of the potentially frustrating things about earrings is that the two oysters you choose might end up having pearls of drastically different size or color. If you want a closely matched set, you’ll have to keep picking more oysters to get matching pearls.
Am a guaranteed to get a pearl?
Rarely you will find that an oyster you’ve chosen does not have a pearl in it. I have seen this happen once and the cast member made a big deal about letting the guest choose another oyster. I haven’t seen any “beware” signage at any of the Disney locations, so this is likely common practice.
How does the pearl choosing process work exactly?
The kiosk locations usually aren’t very busy. You pay, you select your oyster, and you see what you got.
The Japan location may be quite busy, depending on when you visit. You go to the register near the oyster tank, pay for the oyster selection, and then you’re given a number like at a deli. Again, depending on the crowd, you may wait for just a few moments, or up to about half an hour. If you’re in a time crunch, you can ask for an estimated wait time at the register.
At any of the Pick-A-Pearl locations, if you want your pearl mounted, you select a setting and pay for that separately.
How long does it take to have a pearl set?
It depends on the type of setting you’ve chosen and how busy it is. The minimum wait is often about an hour, but it may take several hours or more. You can arrange to have the pearl setting delivered to you if you can’t wait or come back later.
If you’re having your pearl set, there may be instructions about a waiting period before you wear your jewelry (to allow the glue to dry).
Can boys participate in this activity or just girls?
This activity is open to anyone. While you’ll see girls picking pearls more often, during my most recent visit to the Japan pavilion I saw a large family of boys all choose pearls.
What do boys do with the pearls?
Some may just want to keep the pearl loose as a souvenir. Others may want to turn it into a gift piece of jewelry for mom or a girlfriend. There is also a very small selection of settings that might appeal to boys, something like a tie tack or more masculine looking ring.
I have a piece of jewelry from home that I’d like to have my pearl set into. Can they do this for me at Disney World?
Probably not. Typically, the Disney pearl locations will only set pearls into their own pieces (liability issues). However, you’re welcome to take your pearl to a jeweler at home and have them put it into your setting.
Have you ever had the Pick-A-Pearl experience? Do you get a pearl other than basic white? Are you satisfied with your setting? Do you prefer one Disney location over another? Let us know in the comments below.