Hong Kong, June 2014: My favorite finds

We had another whirlwind trip to Asia. The show layout looked very different this time. Our regular vendors had a lot smaller spaces but seemed to be busier with visitors crammed in tight booth spaces.

Jeremy and I had the pleasure of having Elia with us this time. Since it was her first time at the show, she had to wait in the winding long line to get her badge. While she waited Jeremy and I visited a couple of Tahitian pearl producers exhibiting and got several loose lots. Our small size Tahitians (8-9 and 9-10 mm) are always in demand and we were happy to find the right colors and quality to replenish our stock.

As we searched for other pearls, we came across a bundle of blue baroque Japanese Akoya strands and they were big – over 11 mm! We’d never seen this size baroque strands before so we were very lucky to find these few strands almost buried with loose South Sea lots.

Large Blue Baroque Akoya strands

Large Blue Baroque Akoya strands

I stopped by the Vietnamese Akoya pearl farmer’s booth to say hello and they were delighted to hear our successful June Monthly Special featuring their pearls. The farmer has brought the rest of the blue Akoyas that he had kept in his vault for the last six years. The price on these strands were at a premium so I decided to take two strands that had the best color and the luster for our upcoming September Conoisseur sale.

Premium Vietnamese Blue Baroque Akoya strands

Premium Vietnamese Blue Baroque Akoya strands

Right before the show started one of our regular Akoya suppliers stopped by our office and offered us a few natural-color, madama akoya strands. It’s so rare we get see any true madama-grade strands so we took them all and immediately sent them to Japan for certification. They just came back from Japan and we’re happy to have them in stock again. We’ll be listing them soon.

Madama strand

Madama strand

While Elia searched for mid-year-sale worthy pearls, I looked for special pearls for our Conoisseur sale. The Conoisseur sale is the one special time where we can let our creativity fly. There’s always some special pearls that captivate us that can’t be categorized as a regular color, overtone or shape. Here are some of those special pearls:

Slight off round Edison pearls

Slightly off round Edison pearls

When Jeremy and I saw a loose lot of perfectly round, GIANT Edisons, we  thought long and hard whether to get them or not. After few negotiations Jeremy decided to take two out of the four I selected.

Super Lustrous 15-16 mm Edison Pearls

Super Lustrous 15-16 mm Edison Pearls

We’ve also had some requests for large Fireballs.

White Fireballs

White Fireballs

Natural Color Fireballs

Natural Color Fireballs

We also had some requests to look for the Edison drop pearl with a “oil-slick” orient like the pearl Jeremy found for me last March.

OIl Slick Orient Edison Pearl

Oil Slick Orient Edison Pearl

We are now well stocked for the summer and excited to let our creativity burst!

My Trip to the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair

Elia and Hisano at the Hong Kong Jewelry Show

Elia and Hisano selecting pearls

I was very excited to go to Asia for the first time, and especially excited since the trip involved being let loose in a convention center full of millions of gems! I had imagined what it would be like, but this is something that you can’t quite picture in your head; you have to experience it. My first day there, the climate was exquisite. Some people thought it was too hot and humid, but I love tropical weather.

Jeremy, Hisano and I headed over to the show bright and early (which for me is 10 am.) There were people there from all over the world waiting to get in. I had pre-registered for the event, and even then, I had to wait in line for a whole hour to finally get my official badge! I’ve waited less to get on rollercoasters. Anyway, it was worth it. I mention this so you get an idea of the scope of this show.

Once inside, it was on! So many pearls, so little time! We scoured the place over the course of 4 days in order to buy the best South Sea, Tahitian, Akoya and Freshwater pearls on the market. It was great for me to meet many of our suppliers in person, and get to know them better. I really admire that Jeremy and Hisano speak Japanese (and Jeremy even some Mandarin) as this truly makes a difference in the international marketplace. Everybody speaks English, of course, but speaking the other person’s native tongue helps establish a deeper connection.

Elia and Hisano selecting ripple strands and AAA freshwater

Elia and Hisano selecting ripple strands and AAA freshwater

A few things that I realized at the show: Ripple Freshwater pearls are all the rage! They are still pretty rare, but they are only getting bigger and better. Same goes for Soufflé pearls – some of the metallic colors were stunning! And Edison pearls (bead-nucleated Freshwaters) are getting bigger and better, too. We saw some that rivaled the most lustrous South Seas, at a whopping 17mm or so. We hardly could tell them apart! As the farms become able to produce these higher-quality, larger freshwater pearls, the prices go up as well. The label ‘Freshwater’ does not mean that a pearl will be at the lower end of the price spectrum anymore!

A single, top-luster white freshwater and a South Sea strand

A single, top-luster white freshwater and a South Sea strand

Also, I realized how rare Blue Akoyas are! I used to think they were ubiquitous…Not so! Among the hundreds of vendors, I only saw two that were carrying them, and even then, they did not have many and none were loose and undrilled. I made a mental note to hype up the Blue Akoyas when I returned, because they really are rare and I wanted our customers to know, based on my experience.

Hisano and I did a lot of the choosing and cherry-picking, and then Jeremy would come in and handle the negotiations. He knows exactly how much every item needs to be in order for us to be able to list them at the discounted prices we offer at Pearl Paradise. I learned a lot just from watching him, but there is no way I could ever do this by myself! He does have years of experience, but also, I got the sense that the jewelry world is still kind of a man’s world (ironically?)

Before we left, I made sure to check out the Vintage Jewelry pavilion, because, when else would I get a chance to see one-of-a-kind special heirlooms like those? They were amazing! The prices were prohibitive (to someone like me), but they were the real deal (with tattered jewelry boxes from the early 1900s to prove it.) I did get some design ideas by looking at these, though.

Now that I am back I am getting ready for our July 1st Semi-Annual Clearance Sale, which will feature many one-of-a-kind items, as well as select styles at up to 80% off! I won’t spoil the surprise, but, I will say that there are some Ripples, Edisons, Soufflés, and Blue Akoyas, as well as vintage-inspired items.

Blue Vietnamese baroque akoya pearls

Blue Vietnamese baroque akoya pearls

Provoked Baroques: A New Tahitian Pearl on the Horizon

I love Tahitian pearls. More specifically, I love the dark exotic colors of Tahitian pearls – the colors found almost exclusively in smaller size ranges. Large Tahitian pearls are highly valued, but often lack the color and luster of their smaller counterparts because larger pearls most often come from larger, older pearl oysters. As the oyster ages, it begins to lose the ability to produce fine pearl nacre. But what if there were a way to induce small, young pearl oysters into growing larger pearls?
Provoked baroque Tahitian pearlsA company out of Japan by the name of Imai Seikaku has developed a new sort of nucleus that comes in the shape of a small blue pill. This is no ordinary nucleus, but one that is composed of a super-absorbent organic substance which soaks up surrounding liquids and expands. As it expands it begins to “blow out the pearl sac,” as my friend and pearl farmer Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls put it. It essentially induces even a small, young pearl oyster to grow a large pearl sac where an equally large nucleus can be placed.
Provoked baroque Tahitian pearl When harvested, the first graft pearl is free-form in shape and filled with liquid substance, which when drained, leaves a hollow Tahitian pearl. Unlike freshwater soufflé pearls from China, hollow pearls can’t be legally exported from Tahiti so they’re discarded. In their place farmers insert large, baroque nuclei. This second graft results in giant bead-nucleated Provoked Baroques that intentionally look indistinguishable from massive keshi pearls except in one way – they have screaming luster and intensely dark colors. They are even better than traditional keshi and much larger than average keshi.

Common keshi compared to this new breed of Tahitian pearl

Common keshi compared to this new breed of Tahitian pearl

The technology is still in its infancy and production to date has been very limited. Most pearl wholesalers have yet to hear about this new type of gem let alone offer them. Josh Humbert is one of the few pearl farmers that has been experimenting with the organic, shape-shifting nuclei and believes that there is potential to use the technology to eventually grow large, colorful round pearls. In the meantime, we get to enjoy a new type of pearl!

A full strand of giant, provoked baroques

A full strand of giant, provoked baroques

What to do with 5,600 peacock drop Tahitian pearls!

If you follow our Facebook page you would have seen the post below where Hisano and I were having fun sorting a peacock drop lot of just over 5,600 pearls. We decided to make strands with them, and they are ready as of today! Pictures are below the Facebook post!

We are planning a big Tahitian pearl promotion in August, so we’ll probably hold off posting them onto the site until then!

Approximately 150 strands of Tahitian pearls
Tahitian pearl close ups
Peacock Drops
More peacock drops

Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, June 2014

The Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair, June 2014

Although it just seems like yesterday, we are headed back to Asia once again for one of the large, Jewelry and Gem shows in Hong Kong, taking place from June 19th through the 22nd.

In March, we brought team member Lynsey with us to experience what a pearl-sourcing trip is really like. This time we’re going to bring a team member who has been with us for nearly a decade now – Elia! This is Elia’s first trip ever to Asia, and we’re excited to have her along. She is going to be working on product sourcing for our July promotion and the September Connoisseur promotion.

We have one busy week ahead of us, but as always, if there is something special or something particular you would like us to look for, please drop us an email. We will do our best!

Jeremy & Hisano