My first (pearl) trip to Hong Kong

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to take off on my first trip to Asia. Pearls aside, this would be a magnificent trip to experience – just being in Hong Kong felt exciting. Coming from the East Coast, (Philadelphia) it brought me back home. The city was vibrant and beautiful, with no lack of movement anywhere you looked. You can easily walk, or hop on the metro and be anywhere you need in just a few moments. Best of all; the food was amazing, and the hospitality even better. If not for all the hills, and (obviously) the signs in Chinese, I could have easily mistaken it for New York City.

Still being fairly fresh to the pearl world, this trip also took me back to my old profession- the food industry. I worked in high-end fine dining back home, and I have to say; Hong Kong, you did not disappoint! The soup dumplings were to die for, and the fresh lobster casserole melted in your mouth. The crab was juicy to the point that it needed no butter or accoutrements, and the duck… I will dream about the Peking duck, possibly for the rest of my life.

Just before getting on the ferry to go from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wanchai

Just before getting on the ferry to go from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wanchai

This trip wasn’t just for fun, of course. Our Hong Kong buy trips happen regularly, and I’m not the only one who is excited to see all the goodies. Jeremy, Hisano, and I got to Hong Kong a day before the show, and went from the airport to a very empty convention center – hoping to check in early. We were unsuccessful, but we got there early the next day to beat the lines. That also didn’t quite happen, since the lines reached literally outside- but after about an hour, I was equipped with a buyer’s badge and we went inside into pearl heaven.

Surrounding us from every side were rows of booths, separated into regions and gemstone type. We obviously spent our time perusing all the pearls, with direct routes to our trusted vendors. There were so many pearls it was almost unbelievable. As soon as we got to our favorite Freshwater booth, we selected our baskets and started digging. Want to know the best way to start off a work trip? Easy answer; playing in a pile of Soufflé pearls!

A pile of metallic freshwater souffle pearls

Soufflé pearls are so incredibly beautiful!

The next few days were spent meticulously sorting through pearls… thousands, and thousands of them. We kept our eyes out for new things in the pearl world- as well as interesting strands, intense colors, and clean surfaces. It was nice to be a part of the process from the beginning, and to really see our strenuous grading system at work in such a large pool of options. Starting with the Freshwater first, we found some huge white Edison pairs with gorgeous luster. On the smaller side of Edisons, we picked through a tray of absolutely gorgeous purple pearls to find just a select few of the best colored pairs.

Richly colored Edison pearls

The colors of these Edison pearls is so intense.

That tray might look daunting to some, but I gravitated towards the pearl industry as an artist. The idea of piecing together wearable art appealed to me, and selecting and differentiating between shape and color is something that I find enjoyable- so this entire process is meditative for me. Pictured above and below is many, many hours of meditation…

Hanks of freshwater pearls on display

I had never seen so many pearls in my life and I work at a pearl company!

My favorite pearls to check out are Tahitians, there is something about the oil slick surface that I find appealing. Tahitians have so much depth when you look at them, starting from within and enhanced with the associating overtones. I was on the hunt for a unicorn- a 14 mm+ round, flawless AAA peacock Tahitian. I found a few contenders, but not quite what we were searching for. This one was definitely jaw-dropper level for me, though. I maintained a certain level of self-control (somehow) and left the beauty for the next lucky person.

A single, large Tahitian pearl with intense color

Tahitian pearl perfection

Examining strands of Tahitian pearls

I spent every day examining and selecting pearls.

Now I feel like there needs to be some honorable mentions;

The natural strand we stopped to admire was definitely worth taking the time to see- priced in the seven figures! It is pretty amazing to me that we can find such beautiful things naturally occurring within our oceans, and even more impressively- we can then arrange them into a matching graduated triple strand.

We also ran across three MASSIVE South Sea pearls, covering almost a full palm with just those three. They were the biggest pearls I have ever, and possibly will ever see. I think we were all pretty taken with these particular beauties.

Giant baroque South Sea pearls

These were some of the largest South Sea pearls I have ever (and will ever likely) see!

Across the board, the trip was a huge success! I had a great time, and look forward to many (hopefully pearl-centric) trips to Hong Kong in my future. Thanks J & H!

The Secret Life of Pearls – Set your DVRs!

Tonight on NatGeo at 10 pm, The Secret Life of Pearls will air!

You can find details here.

I’ve personally had the honor of visiting the Paspaley pearling operation deep in the outback of Australia and I treasure the experience. While it was many years ago, it’s one I will always remember.

If you would like to see where some of the world’s rarest pearls are grown and where white South Sea pearls originate from and how they are farmed, you won’t want to miss this!

A single Australian South Sea pearl

Australian Outback

Pinctada maxima, the South Sea pearl oyster

We are Featured in the Financial Times with Jewelmer!

Earlier this year, I wrote about an amazing adventure Hisano and I had visiting Jewelmer’s pearl farm in the Philippines, where we were able to take a helicopter ride around the farm and even dive the pearl lines. It was my second time there, but still the trip of a lifetime.

Jewelmer's Pearl Farming operation

What I didn’t mention in March (and couldn’t mention), was that we were taking a writer and a photographer from The Financial Times, an international daily newspaper with a daily readership of 2.2 million people and 4.5 million registered online users at FT.com.

The nearly 1000 word article came out today!

You can see the full article here.

The golden pearl, the result of a recessive gene, grows in the South Seas of Asia, in the gold lipped oyster. In the Palawan province of the Philippines, known for its beautiful beaches and saturated purple sunsets, Jewelmer, a luxury pearl brand, produces 70 per cent of the world’s top golden pearls.

If FT.com doesn’t allow you to view the entire article without an account, you can get a free account here.

I brought a GoPro camera with us to create a sort of “homemade video” of our adventure too, and decided to keep the footage mostly raw without narration so you can just enjoy the incredible beauty of Jewelmer’s golden South Sea pearl farm.

Arriving with Syl Tang, writer for the FT, and Mr. Branellec Sr.

Arriving with Syl Tang, writer for the FT, and Mr. Branellec Sr. – Photo by Nick Hunt

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 

Jenni’s (uber) Pearl Collection

Every so often we get to create special pieces that are just wow, wow, wow! They tend to be the most time-consuming, but they are certainly the most gratifying. They are also a lot of fun.

Last year Jenni, a customer from the United Kingdom, came into our offices looking for something special. Hisano and I had just come back from Asia and had collected a sizable lot of perfect metallic white drops that we had planned to feature in a monthly special because the first time we offered them, they sold out in one day (that had never happened before).

Well, Jenni fell in love with those loose pearls and so we turned them into strands – likely the only strands of their kind anywhere – and I didn’t get a photo :-(

This fall we added several new pieces to Jenni’s special collection!

The Triple Strand 10 mm Freshadama

10 mm three row freshadama strand

Hisano and I matched a total of four strands or straight-sized, 10 mm loose freshwaters at the Hong Kong show in September. Two were perfect matches and a third blended with the two to create a perfect match. We had one additional freshadama strand here that was slightly graduated from 9 mm to 10 mm, which we used to add length to the ends and create a matching bracelet. The result is one of the most magnificent freshadama necklaces we’ve ever created!

The Triple Strand Natural-White Hanadama

Three strands of perfect, natural white hanadama akoya pearls

We also discussed akoya pearls. I sent Jenni a link to a very special set of akoya pearls we had put together back in 2009 that is still displayed in our Flickr account. Those pearls were extra special. The producer that is responsible for our natural white hanadama had created three strands that year of akoya so fine they glowed. I sent the producer and email asking if he had ever put together any more strands like the ones from 2009. He had seven that he’d created and still had since then. Three were a perfect match.

To make the necklace more versatile, we strung two strands together as a double, and nested one strand with its own clasp.

Single strand of super-fine, natural white hanadama akoya

As if these weren’t enough, we added one more special strand to the collection – a pearl strand every connoisseur should eventually add to their collection – white South Sea.

Large White South Sea pearls

I think just about anyone would agree, Jenni now has one “uber” collection of pearls.

The full collection

 

Two special pearl commissions

Most of the pearl pieces we make on a daily basis are to us somewhat routine. We know the most popular sizes, lengths and styles and these account for probably 95% of what we ship on a weekly basis. But those that really know us also know that we love to create special pieces. Lately these have been pieces created from unique pearls Hisano and I find while pearl hunting in Asia, but often they are pieces that are a new take on the traditional.

This week we received two such commissions. The first was for a special Tahitian pearl strand and the second was for a very particular style of white South Sea.

This Tahitian strand is special. The request was 36 inches, AAA quality, straight-sized without graduation, exotic colors and matched across as closely as possible – the latter being the most difficult part of all, and one we called upon friends in Tahiti for a bit of assistance. Matching exotic colors across is the near equivalent of 36 inches of paired, exotic Tahitians.

36 inches of exotic Tahitian pearls

The result is one dramatic strand of incredibly exotic Tahitian pearls.  These colors are the reason I love working with Tahitians.

An exotic Tahitian pearl rope

36 inches of exotic, 11-12 mm Tahitian pearls

The second special strand is one that I handled personally this week. A customer in Australia asked our assistance in creating a special white South Sea strand for his 25th anniversary. He wanted the piece to be very special, so we decided to create a strand out of our loose pearl inventory – the pearls we set aside for rings, earrings and pendants. As I blogged about last year, this is the way to create the perfect strand.

But simply matching a South Sea strand out of loose grade pearls is not something terribly out of the ordinary for us. What makes this strand so different is the graduation.

We were discussing possible graduations (going minimum or dramatic) and I mentioned how dramatic the graduation was in the necklace featured in The Dark Man Rises. I remembered Ashley of Pure Pearls recently blogged about one, combining freshwater pearls with white South Sea. We decided to give it a shot – using only white South Sea pearls.

The resulting strand is a perfect 8.5 to 13.1 mm strand of top-grade selected pearls. We finished the necklace with a gold clasp engraved with a special, 25th anniversary message and it’s now headed over the pond tonight.

graduated white South Sea strand

A perfect strand of graduated white South Sea pearls