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

Our Bridal Pearl Jewelry

Jeremy and I finally had our American wedding last weekend, August 3rd, at Dos Pueblos Ranch in Santa Barbara, California!

I picked out my wedding dress in February right before we left for the Tucson shows. The dress has a silk chiffon ombre of beige layers and I wanted to have that ombre effect in the bridal jewelry as well as the decor. During the Tucson show, Pearl-Guide’s Caitlin William’s daughter Kether and I started looking for champagne colored briolette diamonds. Not knowing what the design was going to be, I’ve selected some dark brown diamonds and champagne colors. For months I pondered what to make and nothing came to mind. A good friend of mine told me I should think about it on the long flight to Hong Kong in June but I had no luck. A week before the wedding I finally got it. I chose to wear the natural colored exotic metallic pearls. Jeremy gave me the special metallic freshwater pearl as a promise ring a few years ago, and since then finding the metallic freshwater pearls have been a project of ours. I chose the warmer pink metallic drops that would complement the warm hue of the diamonds.

Putting together the briolettes was a challenge! Only a 30 gauge wire will go through the hole of the diamonds and I handmade the jumprings to be laser welded onto the chain. The earrings were sent to four different custom jewelers who specialized in laser welding and none of them were able to successfully weld or solder the jumprings. So three nights before we left for Santa Barbara, I took the diamonds out and wire wrapped them individually onto the chain.

Once the earring design was finished, creating complementing sets for the bridesmaids was easy! I wanted to keep everything simple and chose a bale from findings producer that had brown and champagne diamonds set to create an ombré effect like the drop earrings. I paired the pendant with drop metallic earrings on our classic setting.

For the groom and the two best men, I chose 10 mm Tahitan baroque pearls and made them into lapels to be attached next to the boutonnieres. I wanted to be very subtle but have a nice dark peacock color.

During our rehearsal dinner Jeremy surprised me with the most exquisite wedding gift, a natural conch pearl pendant.

Jelly bean shaped, pink conch pearls have been my favorite pearls since I’ve been working at PP. I even have a picture of a cluster of conch pearls on my business card. My wish came true when my husband found me this amazing pearl. The chatoyance is so clearly visible on the bottom portion of this pearl. Jeremy has explained to me that this pearl came pre-drilled when he purchased it. Takayas and Jeremy designed around it so that the pendant will look presentable front and back. The bale was derived from the love knot incorporated into our wedding bands. I will cherish this pendant (and my husband) forever.