Monthly Archives: September 2014

Day…? Final reflections

Final reflections on this year’s buying trip. There are good pearls out there, but the only way to find them is undoubtedly to select them in person. With the best of relationships with a supplier, if you order, say, 10 strands of AAA white 8mm round pearls, that is what you will get, but you won’t get ten with metallic lustre. You’ll just get 10 strands from the AAA white 8mm bag or hank. Nor will you get pearls like that blue baroque Edison or the ripple gold south sea. They were both one-offs which I had to be there to scoop.

I had all sizes and shapes of loose (that means individual not strands) half drilled pearls on the big list. They had been very short of supply last year and this year was not much better. I don’t think I found any blacks which I wanted to buy in any shape or size. And just a few natural colours. Given that loose pearls are invariably more expensive than pearls in strands you would think that decent pearls would be selected out for this, but it seems not.

Bead Nucleated freshwater pearls continue their march for pearl world domination, with non-Edison branded pearls now very close in quality to the originator of the method and with a rapidly expanding portfolio of sizes, colours and surfaces. I saw, not just ripples and smooth big pearls but more of the baby white Edisons (I still have some from last year), smaller coloureds, tiny round 5mm vibrant coloured ones I was told were keishi, and generally more and more ‘routine’ pearls with a bead instead of solid nacre. Are solid nacre freshwater pearls going to disappear or be so rare as to be highly prized a few years into the future?

Finally, we are pawing at the pearls from today once we have caught up with the order backlog (for which we massively apologise) and we will be posting new makes and pearls as soon as we can in a separate section (we have yet to think up a good name for it!) watch not this, but that space



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 six….white metallics and a gold south sea ripple strand

Started the day by calling back to the first office to pay for (ouch) and collect my stash. I picked up some classic white metallic round strands…’double-double’ shiny AAA with matching pairs of half drilleds. A special request. Plus I was wearing a pair of big pink drops from here and succumbed to a few more pairs.

Having paid I quickly escaped before I could be tempted yet more. I went to the office of a big supplier, from whom I had bought in the past. But their behaviour last year and this means I won’t be going there again. Several staff members carefully ignored several customers and left us to one new employee who had been there under a week.  i found one paIr of souffle pearls and played with some 10mm natural colours AAA rounds but found no pairs.

These souffles were shiny but the colour was a bit weak.

These souffles were shiny but the colour was a bit weak.

I (and the other customers felt so dismayed we didn’t buy anything. Never iond. This company is, as far as I know, a main supplier for a big company so we small fry are not important.

Feeling glum I went finally to my favourite south sea supplier. Dark tahitians were muddy but I found some lush lighter multicoloured rounds and baroques.

lighter shades of tahitians were much more attractive than darks, which looked muddy

lighter shades of tahitians were much more attractive than darks, which looked muddy

Trays and trays of south sea pearls

Trays and trays of south sea pearls

And some fun gold south sea ripples. Just the one strand. These aren’t just baroques, they really are like ripples. In spite of poking though every tray of pearls I could not find any other similar stands

Is this the first ever gold south sea ripple strand?

Is this the first ever gold south sea ripple strand?

Finally, some big tahitian buttons which will make amazing earrings



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



Day Four……lots of really fabulous pearls

This has been a great day, with lots of really fabulous pearls found.  After the disappointment of yesterday I decided to go to one of my favourite but much smaller suppliers. This office is usually chaotic, with piles of pearls, bags of pearls, boxes of pearls and random pearls piled up on any available surface with no logic or system.

Four staff members, and most of the work done by one tiny amazing woman, while the boss tends to wander randomly handing you hanks of pearls he rather suspects you might like.and people pop in and out, just visiting apparently.

I like it there because there is most certainly no hard sell technique in operation. They have great pearls if only you can find them. It’s the only pearl company where I can get those rosebud/granulated pearls.

So I got stuck right in and have scooped some lovely rounded granulated rosebuds in creamy white and natural colours. then moved to white big smooth and rounded potatoes with metallic lustre

At my next prowl around I found a large box of ripples..not super dark colours, medium tones with some lovely shades and a few which I’m going to call moonlight ripples, delicate pale rounds with a silver overtones which stops them simply looking wishy-washy or pallid. I would not want wishy washy or pallid.


Mass ripples

Mass ripples

Then we moved on to smooth bead nucleated pearls. I’ve found some with great lustre and colour. Bead nucleated freshwater pearls, once very unusual, are becoming more and more common and available, in more sizes and qualities.

The boss wandered over. Most of the pearls he showed me were not what I wanted but this handful of undrilled metallic big natural colour rounds. A pair of delicate15mm golds looked right back at me. They were expensive. I mimed falling off my chair. the price came down. I go back on the chair but looked unhappy still and the price came down a bit more…this went on for a while until the pearls won and I caved. Wouldn’t you?

Delicate golds...wouldn't you?

Delicate golds…wouldn’t you?

Sensing a weakness boss then produced a bag of different natural colour pearls…without even thinking I was making pairs. Would I like a card to put them on? Then round whites.A tray of whites. The variety of shades..creamy, rose, silver overtones and fractions of a mm variation in size.

I finished the day with a selection from a big box of 8mm natural coours drops – all metallic o course. I picked up a bag of similar blacks and tipped them out then..nah…all pearled out. I could do no more. I had done enough for the day.

Day Three…natural colours akoya pearls…not….

Today has been a bit disappointing. I had hoped to be sourcing some exciting natural colours high quality akoya pearls but due to some misunderstanding the pearl farmer who I had hoped would be a new source came to meet me with white pearls.

I would have got some of them as they were great quality but they were in bundles and he was not prepared to break the bundles to allow me to select the very best strands for you, so I walked away with just a very very few undrilled loose 7mm natural colour rounds

natural colours akoya pearls

natural colours akoya pearls


I felt very disappointed as the few pearls I’ve got are blue/grey, pale gold and even delicate pink. I think there are a couple of pairs possible for earrings and maybe a station necklace or bracelet…But I had hoped for strands…..

Day Two…..Phew……lots of pearls

A great day.Spent the whole day at my favourite supplier and we’ve made some serious inroads into the big ‘wants’ list.Lots of pearls.

9.30 in the morning. I’m already seated at the big table, and there are some huge dark ripples spread out before me. Life is good!


one ming and a soft gold strand

In the end I selected a beautiful AAA metallic strand of bead nucleated pearls, a strand of really big soft gold white ripples and a strand of huge dark ripples.

Next were bead nucleated singles. various sizes and I’ve got a collection of the most stunning colours with the most intensely metallic lustre you could ever want

Stunning drops

Stunning drops


Then I was shown some of the latest harvest of Ming bead nucleated pearls. Phew. Up to 17mm, pretty much clean with only faint blemishing and metallic lustre and rich colour. I couldn’t decide which to select (all three?) so asked Twitter. Within a few minutes my mobile was throwing out replies! Each strand had votes. Watch this space to see what I decided.

Thee huge dark bead nucleated strands with metallic lustre

Thee huge dark bead nucleated strands with metallic lustre


Moving right along, How do 13mm and 14mm white metallic drops sound to you?

White metallic drops

White metallic drops


Finally I was given the first showing of some totally new pearls. They are small, 5mm to about 9mm, but with intense colours and mirror metallic lustre. Anyone have any idea what these little beauties are

Mystery new pearls

Mystery new pearls

I resisted the impulse to immediately buy every one and found nine pairs – mostly smaller sizes, for earrings and some singles which will be set onto rings. No-one yet has got what they are!

Being dutiful I tried to move on to black drops but when I spread them out  I glanced at the clock…nearly 6pm! No wonder I was all pearled out for the day!

More tomorrow



Hong Kong 2014…day one

The plan is to get onto Hong Kong time as quickly as possible so that tomorrow morning I’ll be out, bright of eye, to start finding those metallic pearls.

Last year there was a real shortage of natural colour and black half drilled pearls, so good pearls for earrings are top of the list. Earrings are always popular because they make good presents.

Short entry today, no pearls!