Tag Archives: buying pearls

Covid: Effects on Pearlescence

Covid has affected us. But I also have some exciting news about new stock of Robert Wan Tahitian pearls. During lockdown here in the UK I worked alone to keep things going and now we are very much a ‘face mask and wash your hands please’ place. So far the horrible virus hasn’t managed to get to us.  The government is re-opening everything far too quickly so we have decided we are going to carry on being reclusive and very very careful. We hope you understand if that means some delays to shipping and making of custom orders.

The other big problem is that, while I went to Hong Kong in Feb/March and could buy Tahitian, freshwater and south sea pearls and findings, I don’t know of any akoya sellers based in Hong Kong. Plus around now we would normally be compiling a shopping list for a trip next month. But Hong Kong has been effectively closed down since mid March, since there is a mandatory stuck-in-one-room quarantine for incomers. (and who can blame them for people from the UK?)

Now Hong Kong is coping with a huge (for them anyway) break out of the virus, so a hoped-for easing of the quarantine rules to allow the cancelled September show to go ahead in November is increasingly unlikely. Talking with some of my pearl friends in America and Australia this morning we are hoping for a vaccine and a show to go to in Feb/March.

I wonder if we will have vaccination certification stamped into passports as used to be required for smallpox when I was a child (remember smallpox? Not enough people do!)

Anyway, the pearl point of this rambly post is to tell you that in a complete break with everything we’ve done for the last decade, I bought some pearls sight unseen last month.

The larger lot of Robert Wan dark tahitians. The smallest are 12mm, going up to 15mm. That’s some big pearls

Out of the blue I was invited to participate in the first ever Robert Wan online pearl auction. Of course I was interested and eventually and cautiously bought two lots. It’s very hard to evaluate pearl quality in a couple of indifferent quality photos but I decided to take a punt and I’m glad I did. Out of around 100 big pearls (12-15mm drops mostly) I’ve made the pairs you’ve seen appearing on the website in the last week or so, and picked out some huge single pearls for pendants and enhancers.


Same lot with the pearls moved around on the tray

The colours are darkish, mostly greens with a few minor flaws and reasonably good lustre. They aren’t clean and they aren’t metallic but they are big and well coloured and if they were clean and metallic and well coloured they’d have been three or more times the price. So good deal for me is good deal for you all.

There was also a lot of lighter, also big drops:

Lighter and lustrous Tahitians.

Read up on Robert Wan here – https://www.robertwan.com and you’ll be able to find out more about the ‘father’ of Tahitian pearls. He is the man. I have to say his Hong Kong office is a delight to deal with and the pearls drill like a dream. I don’t know what they use for nucleus but I wish every pearl farmer used the same.

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



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 +One. Buying Pearls is the Easy Part. Now the Work Starts!

Okay, so yes, it is demanding and by the end of the day you feel drained, with eyes which are going round and round like in a comedy cartoon but buying pearls really is the easy part. Ish.

By that I mean that if you have money you can very easily buy pearls. However now I’m back here I’m constantly thinking ‘oh, wish I had bought them’ I’d probably be thinking that if I went to Hong Kong once a month and had £1m to spend each time however.

I’m trying hard not to sound whiney and complaining here, but today, first day properly back at the pearlface I have a large table covered with all manner of pearls which are waiting to be sorted out, identified, catalogued, priced up, photographed, uploaded and then hopefully pounced on by our lovely customers (or add in the stages of making up into jewellery – design, maybe drilling, stringing, wire wrapping, setting, silver or gold smithing, hallmarking….)

Today, for example, before I even start on that routine I have lined up and waiting for me: one south sea station necklace; half drill a huge perfect white edison pearl; make a necklace and earrings. The others will be starting the sorting, firing up the camera for new shots of stock which had run out and is now replenished (eg 4mm round white strands) and doing the orders which have come in in the last 24 hours.

Better get started …where are those new gold south seas…?


On the Road to Hong Kong. The call of metallic pearls

I’m checked in, the lists have been printed and I’m just about ready for my flight to Hong Kong tomorrow.

The Hong Kong September gem show is the biggest trade jewellery show in the world: 3,500 exhibitors and nearly 52,000 visitors last year. It’s so big that it is split into two shows – the first, at the exhibition centre near the airport which is on the mainland, is mostly components, gemstones and findings. There’s a whole hall full just with pearls.

hong kong gem show

trays and trays of pearls in the pearl hall – this is the view from about half way down one of perhaps 15 or more rows

Another sparkles with only diamonds, for example. There’s another with coloured gemstones. (I’ll be in there for a few hours too looking for some tourmalline and coloured diamond briolettes for Gemescence ) Then the whole focus shifts to Hong Kong Island and another exhibition centre has hall upon hall of finished jewellery. But I’m going to be travelling home before that starts.

I’ll be going to the show for the first couple of days only. By then I will have bought nearly everything on my shopping list by going around the wholesalers offices before those delicious metallic pearls ever pack up and go to the show.

bags of pearls

Huge bags of pearls on the shelves in one room of one wholesalers office.The advantages of going early and going round the offices are that things are quieter so there is less pressure and dashing around and I can work steadily to select only the finest of the finest pearls for customers for the next few months – the best shaped, the most metallic – and also spend a little longer in discussing prices. I might select one or two strands only from each of those big bagsfull in the photo above, for example.

I’ll be looking for the finest metallic pearls in shapes from rounds to  – well splatts  is the best description I can come up with. Huge misshapes in natural colours.

huge pearl pendant

44mm by 24mm natural colours pendant

Were a big unexpected hit when I got a few last time. so I’ll be looking for more of the same.

There’s still time to put in a special request – use the contact form.