HK Show – Burmese South Sea, Tahitians & Vietnamese Akoya Pearls

We had a good time at the June Hong Kong jewelry show last month and brought back some special goodies!

Before getting into the pearls, I think it makes sense to share a short bit of Burmese (Myanmar) Pearl history.

Burma has a long history with pearls, both natural and cultured. For centuries, the native sea-faring population of the Mergui Archipelago known as Salons, were the traditional pearl divers. Pearls from the “Mergui shell” (a.k.a. Pinctada maxima) were some of the finest the world had ever seen. It’s no wonder Burma was one of the first places where South Sea pearl farming was first introduced.

 burmese necklaceIn 1954, and Japanese pearl company headed by a Mr. Kikiro Takashima set up the first pearl farm on Sir Malcolm Island as a joint venture with Burmese government agency. The pearls produced are still today considered the finest South Seas ever – as seen with this Burmese triple strand.

Unfortunately, the farm was nationalized in 1963 and the Japanese pearl farmers given the boot. Burma maintained the operations for a time, but eventually the pearl quality became so bad, the industry eventually came to a near complete stop.

Well there is some good news for South Sea pearl lovers. Burmese pearls are coming back! Production is still limited and overall sizes are still quite small, but OH the luster! South Sea pearls are known for their soft, satiny luster, not sharp, metallic luster like fine akoya pearls but somebody forgot to tell their oysters that.

The pearls below are from a 323 round pearl lot we picked up, ranging in size from 8-12 mm, with luster like hanadama akoya pearls.

Burmese White South Sea Pearls

Tahitians also made the special list this trip. To be more specific, small Tahitians made the special list.

Our friend Alexander Collins from Takaroa (incidentally the same atoll we shot the Tahitian pearl documentary on several years ago) brought some very interesting lots to the show. Apparently the baby pearl oysters he collects to farm pearls have been uncharacteristically small over the past few years. So instead of trying to force a larger pearl from a small shell, Alexander started using smaller implants.

Tahitian pearls as small as 7 mm are a very rare find outside of French Polynesia. It isn’t because they are never harvested. It’s because they rarely have enough nacre to be legally exported. But Alexander left the shells in the water for the full 18 months, so his baby Tahitians have thick nacre and are only 7-8 mm in size. He had thousands of them! We only purchased one lot of around 1000 pieces. We aren’t sure what we’ll do with them yet, but little pearls usually end up going to little h.

7 mm Tahitian pearls

There was a Japanese pearl dealer who was attracting attention with a special Tahitian keshi lot unlike any I’d seen before. The pearls were a special dark peacock – the sort of keshi pearl one finds one or two of in a large lot.

Although the lot attracted substantial attention at the show it remained unsold until the last day. On the last day of the show, Hisano was able to convince (or should I say charm) them into splitting the lot, allowing us to take just 30 momme. These are going to be fun! Hisano is already pulling special pearls for her Tahitian Pearl Geode and keshi ring, the best-selling piece at her Las Vegas JCK Debut in May.

dark peacock Tahitian keshi

The final pearls to make it to the Hong Kong Special List are some of our favorites – Vietnamese Akoya Pearls. Our Japanese friends who farm in Vietnam always produce some of the most amazing natural-color baroque pearls we ever see. Hisano has a particular affinity for them and for that reason I am going to leave the special Vietnamese akoya news to her! That blog post will be coming soon.

That’s the special Pearl news of the trip. We also had a lot of fun with friends. This last photo is of Hisano and Justin Hunter of J. Hunter Pearls Fiji posing with Peking Duck :)

Hisano Justin and the duck

Comments

  1. CathyKeshi says:

    Wow, those pearls took my breath away … how very beautifull … especially the Burmese!

  2. When I scrolled down to the white Burmese, all I could say was, “Wow!,” then I scrolled down to the Tahitians. The color is fabulous! It’s exciting to see what the pearl industry comes up with and will continue to come up with.

    • Here is to hoping the Burmese industry truly comes back! I think the Tahitian keshi lot may have just been that one-time oddity though. It must have taken them years to create that lot!

  3. Rosemary says:

    Can you recommend a good shop in Rangoon that sells Burmese pearls?

    • No, I don’t know of any. Farms sell at international auction, so I don’t know if any of the pearls grown in Burma stay there. Most countries that produce South Sea pearls have a lot of sellers offering Chinese pearls as local pearls (Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, etc).

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