A full year in the making … Pearls as One

Over the past year I’ve been working on a project for the Cultured Pearl Association of America. It’s related to something I’ve been passionate about for nearly two decades, and I proposed it to the organization in September of last year.

With the help of avid pearl researcher Caitlin Williams from Pearl-Guide.com, and the technical skills of my good friend Kevin Canning of Pearls of Joy, we’ve created something designed to educate anyone and everyone who would like to learn more about pearls.

Today we launched www.PearlsAsOne.org, with the support of the CPAA (I am now the treasurer and chairman of the marketing committee), Jewelmer, Paspaley, Atlas, J. Hunter Pearls Fiji and the Hong Kong Pearl Association. It’s the first of its kind; an online pearl school, offering a CPAA Certified Pearl Specialist certification course.

I would like to sponsor all our friends who follow this blog. Anyone who would like to become a certified pearl specialist (yes, you’ll actually receive a certificate) can join Pearls As One (for FREE) using the coupon code PEARL10951PARADISE.

Pearls as One

The Moti Ratna pearl pendant

Over the years we’ve received a steady stream of requests for something that is almost impossible to find in the United States: A large (10 mm or seven carat), round, white, all-nacre pearl that is undrilled and completely untreated.

“Moti” is the Hindi word for Pearl, and “Ratna” means Jewel or Gem. It is an ancient Hindu belief that wearing a pearl can have many beneficial effects, such as alleviating stress and anxiety, and boosting self-confidence. It is also believed to aid those suffering from insomnia, eye diseases, high blood pressure and heart disease.

There are specific guidelines for the type of pearl that should be worn, and how it should be worn. The ideal pearl is said to be white, round and untreated. The pearl should NOT be drilled, and should be worn in a way that it touches the skin. Round saltwater pearls have a bead, so the only types of pearls that could potentially be 100% nacre are natural pearls, keshi pearls and freshwater pearls.

The cost of a single natural pearl that is approximately seven carats and round would be astronomical. This triple strand of natural pearls with just a few in the 10 mm range sold for $1.6 million just a few years ago. Keshi pearls are rarely as large as seven carats and nearly always baroque. That leaves freshwater pearls. The issue is that all white freshwater pearls have been processed before reaching market. While the level of processing varies by quality, quite literally all have been processed.

Freshwater pearl farms do not sell pearls to wholesalers. They sell them to processing factories throughout China. The local term for pearls being sold to a processing factory is “raw material.” This raw material is sorted and then put through a series of processes called “maeshori” and bleaching. The reason processing is universal is because it increases the value.

Before our buying team went to the Hong Kong show in June, our CEO reached out to the same farmer who invented the process of growing souffle pearls to ask for a favor. We do a lot of business with his company and he owns his own processing factory. He agreed to sort out a small lot of round, white pearls from raw materials and bring them back to Hong Kong. Over the past month, I’ve been working on a new design–the Moti Ratna pearl pendant made from .999 pure silver.

Undrilled and untreated Moti Ratna pendant composed of .999 Fine Silver.

Some amazing pearls from Hong Kong, June 2016

We made it back from Hong Kong and have finally started sorting out all the special pieces!

As you may have seen from the blog post last week, Hisano and I were accompanied by Erin from our customer service team. She was responsible for the wishlist and had a great time being nearly overwhelmed by Hong Kong and the giant gem show. While she was there, she was interviewed by NHK TV! They only used a small part of the interview, but you can see her starting from 0.53 on the NHK website.

June is not typically a “big buy month” for us as we enter the summer season, but we did find some special pearls.

Typically the finest strands of ripple pearls are multicolor. We had a request for a darker strand with all similar colors so we asked the company that creates all the best ripples if we could pick and choose pearls from a pile of different undrilled, matched strands to create a couple of special ones. They agreed! We left the strands in Hong Kong to be drilled and they just arrived this week.

A special strand of Ripple pearls

Hisano LOVES Vietnamese akoya pearls and we always visit the Japanese family that farms them. Hisano is working with them on another special project for later in the year, but she still had to get a few strands of special, natural-color pearls that just spoke to her.

Colorful Vietnamese akoya pearls

Natural color Vietnamese akoya pearls

Before the show we sent a request to one of our suppliers who owns a farm and a processing factory. We asked for something known in the freshwater trade as raw materials. These are pearls as the come, straight out of the mussels with no processing of any kind.

We tend to get quite a number of requests from people who are seeking completely untreated and undrilled pearls for astrological reasons. They need to be round and they can’t have a bead. This means they can only be freshwater pearls.

Our friends were kind enough to sort out about a hundred loose pearls for us before the show. They range from 9 to just under 11 millimeters.

Untreated and undrilled round freshwater pearls

This next pair of pearls was an interesting find. Finding a perfect pair of drops can be exceedingly difficult but we’ve had requests for them, so when I spotted this pair we snapped it up.

Gold South Sea drop pair

We were able to spend quite a bit of time with our friend Justin Hunter and his wife this trip and Hisano finally sorted and selected some Fijian pearls! She is already working on a new little h design with them.

Selecting Fijian pearls

A selection of colorful pearls from Fiji

Finally, there were some Edison freshwater pearls that took our breath away. They are so metallic, they look like little mirrored orbs. We picked up one small lot of only around a dozen of them in 11-12 mm, and some 15 mm singles that are just unreal.

15 mm metallic Edison Pearl

Metallic Edison pairs

And finally some “just because” colorful Edison drops. We decided to take them just because they were too beautiful to pass up!

Large and colorful Edison pearl drops

My First Pearl-Buying Trip to the Hong Kong Jewelry Show

About 2 years ago, Pearl Paradise took a chance on me. Oh, I knew I loved jewelry but an expert I was not. Fast forward to early last month and to my utter amazement, I can call myself a pearl expert. And poof, Hong Kong here I come!

The Hong Kong Skyline

While getting the chance to attend a trade show in Hong Kong is a learning experience, I also had a job – I was responsible for the wish list! Golden and white South Seas, freshwater keshis, round Tahitians, I’m coming for you.

 

I was lucky enough to get there a couple days earlier than Jeremy and Hisano, which was truly a blessing for this newbie to world travel. Time travel is no joke friends! After that long 15-hour flight, a swift ride on the metro and a zig-zag cab ride on the “wrong” side of the street, the nightlife of Hong Kong engulfed me.

Visiting Hong Kong to source pearlsTalk about a symphony of sensory stimulation! The lights, the smells, the HUMIDITY! It all thrust itself at me with no coaxing. I was literally catapulted into a new world entirely, except somehow, it was familiar too. It must have been the McDonald and the Starbucks, and all the signs in English. Or it could’ve just been my over preparation for a trip to the other side of the world. I was HERE. My new HERE wasn’t going to let me rest either and that was fine with me! I was ready.

I was so ready and time befuddled, I showed up for work a day early! Ha, Jeremy and Hisano hadn’t even arrived yet. It took me some time to realize it, but when I did, I seized the day and went to explore. Some folks like to shop when they travel, others like to see the sites, but this girl likes to eat! My husband decided at the last minute to join me on the trip, so we were off to Dim Sum and it did not disappoint!

After lunch, we took the ferry over to the Gem show site to get a lay of the land and take in the spectacular Hong Kong skyline.

That evening Jeremy and Hisano arrived and they wasted no time. Jeremy invited us to the hotel suite of a colleague who grows pearls in Fiji! I felt like I was initiated into a secret society of the rarest most exceptional pearls in existence. And actually, I sort of was. They were truly extraordinary. The colors! Magentas and golds, emeralds! A word to the wise friends, do not mistake these beauties as Tahitians! Now, I am not taking away from the exquisite allure of a true peacock from French Polynesia. But, Fijian pearls are a breed unto themselves and I got schooled that night. Humbled and in awe, I went to sleep in anticipation and excitement for the pearl filled days to come.

Sorting pearls from Fiji

We poured out bags of Fijian pearls in the suite’s bathroom for examination!

The next three days were a whirlwind! After a speedy trip on the metro (under the sea!) I followed my fearless leaders through a grandiose convention center at the edge of the harbor to a maze of pearl vendors and our trusted suppliers. Here we ogled and sorted through metallic freshwaters, colorful Tahitians and even pistachio akoyas. I managed to find most of my wish list items and loved watching Hisano sort with a deft hand and a trained eye. She even left me to match pairs and sort metallics, truly a feat in itself. Proud newbie over here, friends.

The first day of our pearl buying trip

Arriving at the Jewelry Fair – so exciting!

I was even spontaneously interviewed by a Japanese television station. That was an exciting surprise. It’s a good thing my lipstick hadn’t worn off and my hair hadn’t completely frizzed. I’m now semi-famous somewhere in Japan J!

During our exploration, we came upon the most spectacular piece of jewelry yet. So rare, I barely got my photo snapped before the purveyor was chasing me away calling “No photos!”  I jetted out of there so quick, I didn’t even get to find out the worth of this stunning ring, made of around 30 wild conch pearls of the truest pink I’d ever encountered. Even Jeremy and Hisano were floored at its beauty. It was incomparable. Later, I had the fortuitous opportunity to accompany Hisano in the search for precious gemstones for her little h designs. I followed her with a mouth agape. I had to remind myself to close! The vast array of color and selection was astounding.

A stunning ring featuring 20 natural conch pearls

In the evening, my husband would fill me in on his adventures in food and culture throughout Kowloon and Hong Kong Central, and we’d reconvene with Jeremy and Hisano who were the most gracious of hosts – welcoming us to some of the most amazing and exotic feasts we’ve ever experienced, from choosing our own live seafood to Jeremy’s most favorite, Peking Duck. We enjoyed the company of colleagues who were Hong Kong locals and colleagues from afar, soaking in the magic of a trip of a lifetime.

Just about two years ago, Pearl Paradise took a chance on me. I’m so grateful they did! The travel bug has bitten friends. Anytime I’m invited for a trip abroad, especially to find pearls. I’ll be ready!

Amazing natural color pearls

Natural metallic luster on freshwater pearls

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Little Pearls from Tahiti

We just got a new auction lot of Tahitian pearls in this week that included something I’ve never seen before – Tahitian pearls as small as six millimeters! Last year we secured a small lot of 7-8 mm circled pearls from our friends at Collins Pearls in Takaroa, but these are even smaller.

The total lot contains just over 12,000 pearls and those below 8 mm make up only about 10% of the total, but that still a LOT of tiny pearls when we almost never see pearls smaller than 8 mm, let alone smaller than 7 mm.

We are going to have fun with these!

Tiny, 6-8 mm Tahitian pearls

small-size Tahitian pearl lot

There are so many silvers and even white pearls in this lot. There are also fun colors like gold and Pistachio.

Colorful Tahitian pearls

To see just how small 6 mm is, we plopped two 13-14 mm pearls in the center of a handful of them. It’s like parking a rowboat next to a cruise ship!

Small and large Tahitian pearls