Tag Archives: pearl

A

AAA Grading system

Pearls are usually graded between A and AAA, with A being not very good to AAA which should be of the specific shape (usually used for round pearls) smooth surfaced (with only very small and near invisible flaws) and of high shine or lustre

AA+ Nearly as good as AAA but perhaps slightly off round when rolled and a few more flaws although these will still only be visible on close inspection. Look closely below- the halos are slightly oval because the pearls are off-round although the halos are still pretty regular

AA Average to good lustre, off round, blemishing to 20% of surface

A: This is the lowest jewellery-grade pearl, with a lower lustre and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects. Probably a ’round’ pearl will be egg shaped, even from a distance

The problem with this system is, of course, that you may be faced with a smooth surfaced and metallic pearl which is off round to the point where it drops from AAA to AA+ or even AA. It will still be a beautiful pearl and one which will probably look round when worn but many buyers will be deterred by an AA grading.The lustre reflection below differs noticeably between pearls in terms of reflection and shape and the one to the left of centre has a grooved surface flaw’

A+ Low quality. Visibly off round and very variable lustre. Many flaws in the surface

(any website or other seller which talks about AAAA+++ grade pearls is talking rubbish and this should be challenged).

Tahitian pearls have a distinct and separate system, established by GIE Perles de Tahiti, and the Ministere de la Perliculture of Tahiti which grades from A (finest) to D ( poor) but to avoid confusion Pearlescence uses only the A-AAA gradings throughout the website.

We also have adopted the name ‘Essence’ for pearls which are exceptional. They have been selected for highly metallic lustre, clean surface and shape, in that order. Usually only found by selecting in person. Probably under 1% of pearls will show the mirror metallic lustre we look for

Abalone Pearls

Research and new farming for abalone pearls has started in New Zealand in the last few years..

  The abalone produces a distinctive and    tunningly iridescent blue pearl but is very hard to nucleate as its blood does not clot, so any damage will kill it.There are natural (wild) abalone pearls out there, with wildly baroque shapes and a distinctive horn shape tapering from a broad and sometimes distorted and ugly base to a sharp tip

Akoya

Akoya pearls come from the akoya oyster (Pinctada Fucata Martensii), which is the smallest pearl producing oyster (6cm to 8cm). This is why akoya pearls over 10mm are very rare while the normal size is about 6mm to 7mm It is a salt water mollusc.

Little akoya pearl oyster

Most cultured sea pearls are akoya pearls which are made with a bead nucleus, so that they usually have a good round shape. Big irregularities tend to be tails while less than perfect pearls have nacre with pits or convolutions. Good akoya pearls have a sharply reflective metallic lustre. Most akoya pearls come from Japan with a small production in China.

Akoya oysters like to live in water one to five metres deep and in temperatures of between 15 to 24 degrees Celsius

Modern pearl farming began properly in 1905 when Kokichi Mikimoto produced the first round farmed pearls. The company which still bears his name continues to be a world leader in the provision of the finest akoya pearls

Akoya pearls are harvested after only 9-16 months. The main thing to be aware of is that akoya pearls which are too cheap can have only the thinnest layer of nacre. Pearls with very thin nacre may even ‘blink’ which means that when rolled the nacre blinks to show patches where there is no nacre and you can see the nucleus. Below is a very bad example – the cream colour is nacre and the white is nucleus. Even when the nacre appears solid it can be very thin: peer closely and you can just about make out the thin line of the black nacre on the akoya pearl on the left (which split in half) The nacre on the pearl on the right is so thin the pearl is a ‘blinker’ .


Very thin black nacre Nacre so thin the bead is visible in places


You can see the thin akoya nacre

in these split pearls



Recently the trend for natural colour pearls has spread to akoya pearls and where once

Blue single vietnamese akoya pearl grey blue round akoya strand

every akoya pearl would have been bleached to make it white (and then often pinked to give a pink overtone) now akoya are available in delicate natural shades of pink, grey, or gold as well as a dark grey/blue which also has strong green highlights

Most white akoya are bleached, though some natural white are available. Black akoya are dyed and can look too uniform and dense in colour, while it is also hard to find gold akoya which haven’t been dyed. Suspect strong gold tones and opt for delicate blush tones



Natural pale gold akoya pearls. Natural mixed colour akoyas

B

Baroque

Baroque pearls are strictly all non-round pearls but the term is usually applied to pearls which are not round but which nevertheless have a good rounded surface all over. Freshwater pearls are most commonly baroque as freshwater pearls are mantle-tissue nucleated instead of bead nucleated. So round pearls are the exception, although more are being produced as techniques improve. The most valuable baroque pearls are South Sea and Tahitian pearls which are produced by Blacklipped and White-lipped oysters (Pinctada margaritifera, and the Pinctada maxima).


Baroque white freshwater pearl necklace

Commercial baroque pearls tend to be bigger pearls – there is a balancing act for the pearl farmer between leaving the pearl in the mollusc with the chance of a big round pearl and the likelihood that the pearl will go out of round and become baroque and therefore less valuable – but for the buyer, you will be getting a lot of nacre for your money.

Bead Nucleation

There are two basic types of farmed pearls: bead nucleated and tissue nucleated. (The other main type classification is between cultured or farmed and natural or wild pearls)

Nucleation is the process which starts off the growth of a cultured or farmed pearl. It involves inserting something into a nacre-producing mollusc to trigger production of a pearl. This nucleus can be either just a tiny sliver of mantle tissue on its own or a sliver of mantle tissue plus a bead or other shaped foundation. In either case a nacre secreting pearl sac grows and a pearl is made within that sac.

Bead nucleated pearls include all Tahitian and south sea pearls, akoya pearls and many modern big freshwater pearls (brands Edison and Ming – see separate entry under Edison)) as well as fancy shapes such as coins or hearts.

Tissue nucleated pearls are mostly all freshwater pearls which are therefore all nacre, solid pearl. no bead inside. (Chinese and Biwa freshwater pearls)

Keishi pearls are an exception. They are the pearls formed inside a usually pre-existing pearl sac from which a pearl has been removed (think of how a balloon looks when the air seeps out over time and you get the idea of a keishi pearl.

oyster diagram

Archetypical shellfish
1 Shell
2 area of mantle tissue from which donor tissue is taken
3 mantle
4 gonad
blobs pearl nucleation placements

Mantle tissue is used because that is the area of tissue which specifically secretes nacre. It’s usually there to make the mollusc’s shell but will produce nacre wherever it is – a talent utilised by the pearl farmer.

Placement of the nucleus varies as well. Beads are placed in the sex organ – the gonad – of the mollusc and only one per mollusc. (You might think that this would stop the mollusc from wanting to reproduce but there is some research which indicates it make them more not less active!)

Tissue nucleated pearl grafts can be many to a mollusc and are placed in the mantle.

All sea pearls are grown around a bead. It used to be that beads were not used in the production of most freshwater pearls (exceptions include coin pearls for example) However the last couple of years have seen the development of bead nucleation in freshwater pearls, producing second or third graft round pearls of stunning colour, lustre and shape. High quality bead ‘nuked’ pearls are still exceptional and unusual and therefore very expensive, but can be up to 18mm.

Biwa

Or sometimes biwi-

A freshwater pearl grown in lake Biwi in Japan. Biwa pearl production stopped some years ago in the lake due to pollution but some farmers are having some success with growing these rare pearls again

Stick pearls are often generically mis-described as biwa pearls. They aren’t.

Bleaching

White pearls are colour treated by bleaching. This applies to both akoya and freshwater pearls. Sometimes after bleaching a faint pink overtone is added as this can make the pearl more attractive

Black-lipped Oyster

Pinctada margaritifera This oyster produces the Tahitian black pearl, which is neither black, nor comes from Tahiti.

Blinking

Term to describe poor quality bead nucleated pearls where the nacre does not even fully cover the nucleus. When the strand is rolled the pearls look as if they are blinking. Beware of akoya pearls which are cheap. They will almost certainly have very thin nacre which will wear through.

Blister

A pearl that is attached to the inner surface of a mollusc shell.

baroq

Often rounded on one side and flat on the other. Sometimes also called a fastener pearl . Most often used to make stud earrings, because in larger sizes round pearls can be too proud of the earlobe.

F

Farm

Nearly every pearl available anywhere in the world is farmed – cultured. Pearl farms tend to be stunningly beautiful places.


Shot of the Kamoka Tahitian pearl farm on Ahe, French Polynesia

Pearl farm on Talesei Island, Indonesia…golds and white south sea pearls

 

Faux Pearl

A false pearl bead manufactured by coating the inside of a hollow glass sphere or the outside of a solid glass or plastic sphere with a pearlescent coating which is sometimes pearl powder. Faux is a fancy word for fake. Also called shell pearls. They are of course perfectly round in shape, with great lustre and even colour. White shell pearls are very white, which is a give-away. All fake pearls feel smooth when rubbed on the teeth and the drill holes tend to be larger.

Fiji

There is a young but growing pearl industry in Fiji, and the pearls produced have a huge and stunning range of colours, mostly shifted away from typical Tahitian colours into the chocolates and earthy shades


Newly harvested, straight from the shell, Fiji pearls

Freshwater

A pearl grown in a freshwater river, lake or pond margaritifera mollusc. Often more irregular in shape and more varied in colour than salt water pearls freshwater molluscs are nucleated by creating a small incision in the fleshy mantle tissue and inserting a piece of mantle tissue from another mussel. This process may be completed 25 times on either side of the mantle, producing up to 50 pearls at a time. The molluscs are then returned to their freshwater environment where they are tended for 2-6 years. The resulting pearls are of solid nacre, but without a bead nucleus to guide the growth process, the pearls are rarely round.

G

Gamma Radiation

Gamma irradiation turns the nacre of freshwater pearls very dark, and often also imbues a metallic lustre with rainbow orient. Strangely, it has no effect on salt water nacre but will turn the nucleus dark which shows through the layer of nacre, making the pearl look grey or blueish There is no danger of radiation contamination from irradiated pearls.

Granulated

or popcorn pearls have a knobbly surface which resembles..popcorn. This granulation is often mixed with patches of high lustre surface. When the Chinese freshwater pearl business was starting up most of the pearls were, at least to some degree, popcornish and oval in shape. Term also used for the earliest Chinese freshwater pearls which were called Rice Krispie pearls.



Loose, undrilled white rosebud /granulated pearls

Gold Leaf Pearls

This is the name we give to the extremely beautiful lustrous gold pearls which are natural pearls with a layer of aragonite with an incredible lustre – so it does indeed look as if a layer of gold leaf has been applied to the pearls.


These pearls show the stunning gold colour which

looks as if gold leaf had been applied to the pearl surface

Gold-lip Oyster

A large oyster (variety of Pinctada maxima) used in some countries to produce South Sea cultured pearls; it produces a yellowi nacre, and pearls that typically range from off-white to rich, deep gold in colour.


Loose undrilled gold south sea pearls waiting to be paired for earrings

Goniochromism

An optical phenomenon which causes the hue of the pearl to change colours depending upon the angle from which the pearl is viewe. Popularly called colour-change pearls

K

Kasumi

These are a sub-species of freshwater pearls grown only in Lake Kasumi-ga-Ura, some 40 miles northeast of Tokyo, Japan. They have a distinctive surface, like wrinkled satin. Kasumi like pearls are now being produced in China


Chinese Kasumi look remarkably like the distinctive pearls

from lake Kasumi but cost a fraction of the price

Keishi or Keshi

Japanese word meaning “something as tiny as you can imagine”, such as a grain of sand; used originally for very tiny gems that resulted by accident as part of the culturing process; now used to refer to all-nacre baroque pearls produced when something goes wrong in the process of culturing so that the seeding nucleus is ejected from the half formed pearl. South Sea kesihi pearls can be very large; Japanese keishi pearls can be minuscule. The shape ranges from resembling a cornflake (so they are also called cornflake pearls) to something more like a slightly deflated balloon. They tend to have fabulous lustre


White keishi pearls

Knots

Knots in the silk between pearls is a sign of quality in pearls. If there are no knots or the pearls are on beading wire and look stiff and without movement then they are not being assembled to show their best. The knots serve two purposes. Firstly the chances of losing all the pearls is minimised, only one or two maximum can be lost (Pearlescence always gets really annoyed at the scene in ‘Murder is Announced’ where the pearl necklace breaks and all the pearls shower onto the floor. Good for Miss Marple but very bad for pearls). Secondly each knot acts as a hinge allowing the necklace or bracelet to flex. They stop the individual pearls packing closely. Never get pearls strung onto real silk wet – this is not because the pearls will be harmed, it is very unlikely that just getting wet with water (either salt, fresh or swimming pool) will damage pearls after all, but the silk on which they are strung will rot in time especially the silk inside each pearl which is trapped and therefore takes much longer to dry. Please do wear your pearls all the time. Pearls need light oils to look their best and the oil in human skin is perfect. If you absolutely must wear your pearls in water then please let us know and we can re-string them on a very strong and water resistant synthetic silk substitute.

Play between the pearl and the knots. This is a sign that the silk may be stretching and it might be time to start thinking about getting them re-strung. We are happy to re-string pearls and will restring our own pearls at a reduced rate.


The picture shows a two strand necklace where the upper strand has been

strung unknotted onto silk and the lower has been knotted.

T

Tahitian Pearls

are produced by the black-lipped oyster (Pinctada margaritifera). They have been produced for almost exactly 50 years now in French Polynesia, in the lagoons of remote coral atolls and islands – everywhere except on Tahiti Itself!


Kamoka pearl farm,. Ahe atoll, French Polynesia

Black Lip Oysters are now also being farmed in a small way in Australia. The oyster itself is quite large — sometimes up to 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds — which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colours. Most “black” Tahitian pearls are not actually black, but are instead grey, silver, charcoal,chocolate brown, blue, purple, aubergine, pink, beige or even off-white Truly black pearls are extremely rare.


Black pearls….

Tahitian pearls are grown around a bead so are often round but can be semi round to drops as well. Circles are common, and some prefer circle pearls because they are clearly real and not imitation. Tahitian pearls go through x-ray inspection before legal export (ask to see their export certificate and confuse most jewellers!) and have a different grading system A-D where A grade are the best pearls

Third graft

Sometimes molluscs yield pearls of such quality that farmers put them back in the water for a third time. Third graft pearls will be very large indeed, and the mollusc could be ten years old.

Top drilled

Asymmetrically drilled pearls, often oval. If strung un-knotted they tend to move around against each other on the silk and then are called dancing pearls

Pearl opening parties – a new scam

Pearl opening companies seem to be popping up all around the world, certainly in the UK and on facebook in the last couple of weeks or so.

This pearl opening thing has been around for years. Every so often someone will come up to one of us and say they got this pearl at some place which had a tank of oysters and they picked one and it had a pearl in it. In one place in America I heard of boys diving off a pier to get the shells, which is a dramatic bit of scene setting.

They cause our hearts to sink. The pearls are invariably low quality freshwater pearls, but the customer will have been told that the pearl is worth £££ and is rare and very valuable. I never know whether to be honest and blow the smoke away or just gush about what a wonderful pearl etc etc

pearl opening

You can have the poor oyster in a tin – $1 a time.

These set ups are always a money making scam to some degree or other. I have yet to see one which sells genuine akoya pearls of any value. Mostly they sell low quality freshwater pearls in plated findings for – I just saw one on facebook – £35 which is outrageous

 

 

 

 

pearl opening

You can have them in a box, with a silver tone finding for $1.30 (min order 100)

The scam goes like this. The operator buys pickled oyster shells from either a wholesaler in the UK  or America or direct from china. They are vacuum packed and dead. The poor things have had a random freshwater pearl shoved into them. The process is that the pearl is inserted into a live young akoya oyster shell which opens as it dies. The corpse is then dumped into a chemical bath which shrinks the adductor muscle so it slowly closes,  and preserves it. Then it is vacuum packed or tinned and sold to one of the companies at the top of the supply pyramid.

There is one company which has been recruiting sellers hard and promoting these parties, because they are selling the preserved shells and findings at a huge mark up and controlling the drilling and setting of the pearls. Big profit for them.

The party works by someone signing up to buy some of these tinned oysters and associated stuff and told a load of nonsense about what they are. They organised a website and facebook page and get people to join an online  video ‘party’ where with a lot of whooping and hysteria, the huckster then opens one of these in front of a webcam and  – wow – you have this pearl. The huckster will give a ridiculous appraisal that the pearl is worth much money. (no it is not)

Or the opening is done in the shop or the end of the pier. But the pearl inside is yours. And, not only do you have this pearl now, but you can buy the finding -some basket pendant holder usually – to display it. And it only costs £££.

I tracked down one UK wholesaler. These pickled and vacuum packed shells cost between $1 and $2 a pop. Never more, even when packed individually in a box with a silver tone finish pendant finding. That wholesaler is selling them for £80 for five! I am in the wrong business.
The operator opens the pearl and tells you your pearl is worth £££.
It is not.

pearl opening

Vacuum packed, so you can opening them in front of a webcam- popular on facebook. $1.20 each


There are also suspicions that there is some pyramid selling going on, and I heard over the weekend of two people in America who have thought they would start up these horrible operations and have lost their money by being sent empty boxes

I’ve not yet seen a website with one of these companies which complies with UK and EU law on returns or on contact details . These are invariably low quality freshwater pearls – akoya pearls do not come in shocking pink or peach, and certainly not ready dyed black! Plus the chemical liquid in which they are preserved is probably toxic.

If I sound cross about this nonsense and scam it is because I am. It is dishonest and wrong

pearl opening

Just another example. These were the cheapest – 85cents US each


If you want great pearls talk to us – We go to Hong Kong to personally select every single pearl on the website. Our business is open, pays its taxes, is a ltd company with bona fides, complies with all the UK law, you have an address for me, you can talk to us, make returns, and we’ve been going for more than 15 years.

Shop here for finished jewellery

Shop here for bespoke commission work

Shop here for loose pearls to make into jewellery

Update

Information for a class action is being gathered in the USA. If you have had involvement with this nonsense either as a buyer or seller in the US please contact https://www.classaction.org/vantel-pearls-lawsuits who will be taking action in the ninth circuit.

In the UK contact Trading Standards and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau

Latest

There’s a new video on youtube debunking the claims by sellers of these pearls that pearls change colour when wet/dry .They don’t. The sellers are lying, they are sending out different pearls to you. More scam, more deceit. Pearls do not change colour when wet.

There is no such organisation as The National Pearl Association of the United States. In America you have the Cultured Pearl Association of America. In the UK we Have the British Pearl Association. The NPAUS is a made up thing to try to add credibility to a pearl opening wholesaler company’s totally ridiculous and fraudulent pearl value chart.

This chart, being shown to pearl opening punters, assigns values to pearls. The values are absurd, not going to happen. No respectable pearl dealer would have anything to do with such a chart. Every pearl has a different value. arrived at by negotiation and with experience. If you are shown such a chart it is okay to laugh. Tell the person showing you that we said it was okay to laugh cos the chart is a joke with no basis in an honest pearl business

Finally…We’ve looked at some of the websites supplying pearl parties. They hide. They want your money but they do not give a mail address, just email. Ask yourself – does any reputable business hide where they are? Of course not.

 

November 2017 update

Remarkably I am still getting emails and enquiries about this. People still starting up businesses ( not spotting that their next big thing is the week before last’s fading craze).

There’s also been a revelation that the preservative liquid is definitely toxic in at least some shells – it is formaldehyde. Used to preserve tissue . UK safety people are investigating and import may well be banned

Finally for this update I got this email this morning from a pearl opening supplier. These are the prices your pearl opening facebook lovely friend is paying for these shells – work out their profits for yourself then browse our website for genuine top quality pearls at great prices…pearls selected carefully and in person by us.

https://www.pearlescence.co.uk/index.php

work out for yourself that you are being played for a mug by the pearl openers

Prices rising for the best pearls

Confirmation that prices for the best pearls are rising comes from the prestigious JCK magazine, which features quotes from my pearl friend Jack Lynch, of Sea Hunt pearls.

Read the full story here

Jack was talking about the more purple strand of natural deep pink bead nucleated pearls he got at the same time I got mine (see earlier in the blog for my getting them last March and then not finding any more in September in Hong Kong)

What wasn’t mentioned was how prices are rocketing for under 3mm pearls since everyone is focussing on big beaded pearls

Santa search – new gift finder feature

A whole new feature on the website just went live. Code name Santa search It’s the new easy-peasy gift finder search program I thought up a couple of weeks ago and which our amazing webmaster Neil has constructed so that it has come out exactly as I thought up.

The whole idea is to make it easy for people who are confused by the full website to have just one or two choices of pearl colour and price range. They can pick one of the suggestions or then follow it up with either phone or email if they don’t see what they want or like and we can take it from there.

Hopefully this will make it much easier for those who are daunted by choice!

 

Goldsmiths’ Company event for students

.Yesterday and Friday the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the London Assay Office held an event for UK jewellery students to learn about all sorts of businesses which support and supply their crafts and skills, from all about hallmarking itself to……pearls………..US!

outside the guild's hall

The flag’s out -outside the guild’s hall

Over the two days we’ve talked ourselves hoarse about pearls (my voice has dropped about an octave at least!) with students and with some of the leaders of the jewellery business in the country. I don’t know if I wasn’t more excited than many  of the students at who was there and who we met.

Through the imposing doors and up the sweeping staircase to our waiting stand, in the livery colour of crimson with Pearlescence in gold lettering, and under the crest of the livery company (www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk)- I know from a previous visit that security is very tight – it has to be because the London Assay Office, which checks and oversees the quality of £millions in precious metals is on the top floors.(www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/welcome-to-the-assayoffice)

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

The Drawing Room is the room used by the film company to stand in for Buckingham Palace in the film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren. It’s all white and gold,

We set up and go round to see who else is here. It’s by invitation, and many of us are as stunned as I am to have been asked. There’s a big buzz of excitement…

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths' Hall

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths’ Hall

Pretty soon the students start to flood in and immediately home in on the fireballs I’ve brought. My aim in choosing what to bring was to keep it pared down and show that there is so much more to pearls than white and round and the fireballs and big ripples I selected start their job immediately. By the end of the two days I think I explained how fireballs happen at least once per hour! The students love them, and fireballs.

I did several knotting demonstrations as well during the two days. By the last one my co-ordination had gone completely and I got knots!

me plus demonstration table

me plus demonstration table

At the end, @goldpolisher and I both asked if we could keep our name labels from the front of our stands as souvenirs. We abruptly changed our minds though when it was pointed out that this would mean we would not be coming back. ‘Keep them…Please!’

Special thanks to @stevelao and Alison of the assay office, plus to the wonderful, unfailingly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly Goldsmiths’ Company and London Assay Office staff.

Most memorable moment…Looking at the panels on the wall listing the Masters of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths dating back to 1317 and realising that I’m standing right there – by invitation!

Two stunning pearl necklaces.

Not posted for a while….it’s been busy but uneventful, with added stock sorting. And compiling lists of wants and needs and requests for Hong Kong next week.  Wendy will be making blog entries every day, with photos so follow the first pearl adventure of the year

Until then, here are two stunning necklaces sold by pearl friends

First is a necklace of perfect archetypical peacock Tahitians from one of the world’s biggest wholesalers of Tahitians, Wiart Loic.

peacocks Wiart LoïcThe green body colour and aubergine ‘eye on each huge perfectly round tahitian is …….oh…….perfection.

Second, this necklace of huge white round pearls is made up of freshwater pearls..yes, really, freshwater pearls.  It comes from lovely Jack Lynch of Sea Hunt Pearls. He’s the man who coined the name ‘souffle’ for the huge hollow pearls.

jack lynch sea hunt freshwater 15.4-19.3 $20kThe pearls are 15.4mm to 19.3mm and would have been yours for a modest $20k, if you had got to him before his buyer..but it does go to show that fabulous freshwater pearls are just as much fabulous pearls as their equally bead nucleated cousins these days.

Day seven….winding down

Winding down now, most of the pearls we wanted have been found. It’s been a good trip, Successful, with beautiful pearls. I think that everything which could be metallic is metallic. I’m already thinking up designs and work plans for one-off silver and goldsmithing.

Time for some reflections. There is still something of a shortage of medium sized natual colour and black rounds, drops and buttons for earrings with metallic lustre and good colour. Many of the pearls are washed out in colour.

There are very few souffles around. There were some strands and loose at the main souffle supplier but they were light and ho-hum in colour, allbeit with good lustre. I wonder if production is tailing off, reflecting falling demand. At the same time another supplier seems to have been trying to produce something similar – what were described to me as baroque bead nucleated pearls looked like souffles rather than regular baroques. They had a bead ( you could hear it rattling in some) but at the same time there was a dark brown organic stuff inside each pearl between bead and nacre. It was a dried out flaky substance. No information forthcoming on how the pearls were produced.

Bead nucleated is very much the thing. Solid nacre is almost becoming the exception. If you are wanting a sold nacre freshwater ‘classic’ white strand my advice would be to get it soon because solid nacre is going to get rarer – ask yourself….if you can produce round pearls with a bead and know most of your production will be round and at least AA wouldn’t you opt for that rather than hoping that the miracle of round and perfect AAA?

There are more and more bead nucleated natural colours and white big round pearls with smooth surfaces and great lustre. Prices are plummeting with most suppliers.  At the same time there are lots of very pallid ones out there. Mostly I don’t get them, but some had a blue/silver overtone and I’ll call them moonlight pearls. If you go for cool colours these may be the ripples for you.

From a personal business viewpoint, the main impression which has struck me is the difference in attitude to their customers between the big companies and the smaller ones. The big ones aren’t really interested in small companies and don’t want to deal with us – that was made very clear when four of us were left in the hands of an employee who had worked for the company for a week only while every other member of staff looked on. I’ll not be even looking at their stock in future And another big player had sacks of real rubbish and year old low end stock alongside their top grade freshwaters. There the folk who deal with us regularly are delightful but the managers are sour faced and never even look at you. Conversely, the smaller suppliers have the same stock, often cheaper, and know me and are pleased to see me. We compare photos of grandchildren and discuss all manner of issues (well, mostly pearl issues) Where would you go?

If you can’t be bothered to be pleasant why should I give you my money?

Day five.. pearl finding

White mirror metallic rounds.

White mirror metallic rounds.

A busy day again, full of pearl finding. I picked up where I left off, working through the wants list of loose single and pairs. It took more than an hour to find ten perfect pairs of AAA white mirror metallic pearls. It is staggering how many variations are possible in what should be a simple task – after all, how much variety can there be? Well the answer, of course, is zillions. For perfect pairs the size, colour, overtone, lustre and mirror size and quality must all match perfectly.

Of course that is perfection. Later in the day Betty Sue King and I were sadly contemplating some big round bead nucleated ‘pairs’ most of which were sort of maybe something like.  Betty Sue is a leading American pearl supplier with a lifetime of knowledge and skill in the pearl world. I just sit there learning when she is in the room.

Before that though one of the highlights was a collection of nuggety ice cream coloured 10mmish undrilled mirror metallics. Not sure what I will do with them, but at the moment I’m thinking some pretty and feminine station bracelets with silver chain.

Once I had paid for the pearls at the morning supplier I moved on to a second. Poking around the shelves, I pounced on some big and colourful bead nucleated baroques. Some of them huge -30mm and more. They were bead nukes gone a bit wonky.

Huge baroque bead nucleated pearls

Huge baroque bead nucleated pearls

Variable in quality, never the less, there were some big colourful baroques for some dramatic earrings. There were two bags of those, and then one bag of pretty rubbish pearls in which was modestly sitting this huge true blue pearl

The pearl is a true blue, not a grey with a blue overtone. It is truly blue

The pearl is a true blue, not a grey with a blue overtone. It is truly blue

The wholesale staff member and I both gasped. You can see how how big the pearl is. There are a couple of fairly big flaws but ..oh that colour!

It’s now mine (of course!)

For the last hour I dashed off to the findings supplier and grabbed silver, vermeil and gold clasps, earrings, pendant fittings, rings, enhancers and so on.  Oddly the staff wanted to go home, so I left my basket. I’ll select some of the beautiful Italian-made and designed woven silver necklets

 

 

Michelle Keegan loves her Pearlescence anklet

It must be nearly two years ago now that we supplied a simple white pearl anklet to Michelle Keegan’s stylist for a photoshoot with a holiday look.

Michelle loved the anklet so of course we gave it to her. And if you want proof that she really does love the anklet here it is out in Dubai on the beach with her and her fiance Mark Wright this week

Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright

Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright

And later on the beach (photo from The Sun

michelle dubaiMichelle is leaving top UK soap Coronation Street in May. It was her enthusiasm for this anklet which triggered the making of the whole Beach Collection – which she named.

Beach Collection items are specifically designed to be all the jewellery you need to take on holiday. Either simple pearls or pearls on leather. And they look great on men or women.

added March 30…The anklet is still sending postcards – Today’s Star Sunday calls it ‘delicate’ !

Buy one like Michelle’s here

A Special Find….Lake Biwa Pearls

Lake Biwa near Kyoto in Japan was the home once of a thriving freshwater pearl industry.Nowadays the name is often slapped onto thin stick pearls (erroneously)

I have a regular customer/correspondant, Andrew. He teaches classes in Rasa Shastra -making medicines using, amongst other things, powdered pearls.  Which is where Pearlescence comes in, obviously. We supply him regularly with both pearl powder from drilling and whole pearls for crushing.

Now a week or so ago I got an excited email from Andrew while he was in Japan, up near Kyoto. Would I be interested in some pearls which apparently were genuine Lake Biwa pearls. Lake Biwa was the centre of the Japanese freshwater pearl industry almost 100  years ago but the farms closed as the lake got hopelessly polluted, too dirty for its own species of freshwater mussel to survive.

Andrew had found the proverbial little old shop which, in a dusty corner, had some pearls which were said to be genuine Biwas.

recently the term Biwa has been slapped onto stick pearls. Stick pearls were produced but mainly production was of small, lustrous freeform pearls. Now these pearls have a slighly silky lustre. Andrew could get no clear paperwork provenance, but these certainly don’t have the look of Chinese freshwaters or of European river pearls. Their lustre is noticeably silky and they have a very clean surface, albeit not particularly regular. Sizes range between 6mm (not many) down to 1mm. they’re white with a rainbow orient.

biwa pearls

Biwa pearls

Now please note I am not saying for certain that these are Biwa pearls, just that there is a strong likelihood.

(I’m not going to drill the 1mm ones either)

About Half Done – Sorting the Hong Kong New Stock

So, we’re about half way now in getting sorted, catalogued. processed, made, into stock, photographed and uploaded all the pearl delights which I brought back from Hong Kong and the Gem Show..is it really two weeks ago now?

The time has passed in a haze and daze of sorting through  bags and bags and piles of pearls, knotting necklaces, and uploading loose strands. Now we’re as far as drilling some of the undrilled to make earrings etc.

Yesterday I sat at my workbench and went through about ten cards of pairs, working out exactly where to drill them – sometimes it’s easy to figure, as an otherwise perfect pearl has a nobble or dent in just one place,. That’s where you drill, to hide the flaw in the hole and under a finding, hopefully. But some pearls have a sort of smeary patch and deciding just where to drill is then a bit more problematic. In any case, I mark all pearls with a black dot – it makes lining up the drill bit exactly correctly much easier.

So this is how the drill area looked first thing.

drililng undrilled pearls

Cards of undrilled pearls lined up and queueing for their moment in the drill

I’ve worked fairly steadily and the queue has gone down. I’m especially pleased with a card of peacock tahitians. They really are very pretty – all peacocks and some pale ones with a tourquise body and pink ‘eye’

Tahtian peacock pearls in various body shades with beautiful overtones

Tahtian peacock pearls in various body shades with beautiful overtones

There are also some fabulous metallic white drops and some white ‘splatts’ flattish pearls shaped a bit like ink blots which will be earrings and cufflinks. Plus some absolutely fabulous huge gold leaf ripple drops for pendants and earrings – and some frilly fireballs.

Since these are all top quality pearls I usually change the drill bit after 10 pearls because they go blunt very quickly and I usually drill quite a deep half drill. It give the glue/air pocket at the end some space so that the finding doesn’t bounce out when you put it down and leave it to dry. The first time I ever drilled some pearls I did them to the exact depth of the pin and when I came back to check them after leaving them to dry every single one had risen about 1mm out of the holes. You only learn by doing!

These beautiful Tahitians will be on the website soon, and will be priced to make a great Christmas pearl present

 

 

Day Eight – At the Gem Fair. So Many Pearls

It’s a good feeling to get to the Gem Fair finally knowing that just about all the shopping is actually done and I can spend the time pottering around and picking up the odd strand or pearl here and there.

Thanks to Jeremy and Hisano Shepherd of Pearl Paradise.com I’ve ventured back into Akoya territory after some years, with the purchase of some beautiful natural multicoloured strands.

The hugepearl hall itself seemed very quiet, not many there. It could be that many would be pearl buyers were buying elsewhere or that the recession is still affecting buying.

Jeremy and Hisano were replenishing their Tahitian and South Sea stock so I got to meet lots of lovely pearls, including the carved Tahitians produced by Galatea pearls.

galatea pearls

Chi Huynh wearing one of his own carved Tahitian pearls..fabulous

carves intricate and beautiful designs into the nacre of Tahitian pearls. Some of the pearls are even nucleated with gemstones which are revealed once the carving is done – a bit like like the look of a cameo. I got to ask the man himself something I have wondered since I first heard about carved pearls – namely does the carved nacre peel and chip easily. No it doesn’t.

Kevin Canning of Pearls of Joy was also there- first time at the show and already happily clutching big bags of Tahitians.

Just to add to the name dropping (be fair, pearls is a small world)  also caught up with Betty Sue King

My final purchase? Not exciting at all. Strands of 6mm potato pearls which were needed but which I kept forgetting all week.

Job done and a bit pearl shopped out.

 

Day One – Every Pearl a Metallic Pearl

Day one, and every pearl today is metallic. I’ve spent about six hours in one wholesaler’s office today and found some stunning pearls, all metallic, every single one.

White AAA round metallics, colourful aaa black rounds which are, of course, anything but black (gold, pink, green, blue, aubergine) as well as drips and buttons for earrings: plus some weird shapes which will be…I have no idea!

The first general market news is that small pearls have shot up in price due to a production emphasis on bigger and bigger pearls.

There seem to be a few more natural colours pearls around, although this wholesaler still hadn’t got any big half drilled drops and the big buttons were mostly orangy peach (pass). Many of the white pearls ae creamier in colour than before – noticeably so. And I found some pretty nominally white strands where the pearls were just a slightly different shade. Really pretty. Plus some weird shapes which I will…I have no idea what I will do with them at the moment but they are mirror metallic natural colours. What’s not to take home?

freeform pearls with metallic lustre

Metallic freshwater freeform pearls – amazing depth of colour and shine.

I had a list, and occasionally I remembered it and got some of the pearls on the list, but for much of the time I kept finding great pearls, and who can resist great pearls? So this was my day one basket.

The day one basket of pearl purchases

The day one basket of pearl purchases