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
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.
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
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.
There are times when I wish with all my exhausted being that Hong Kong was a bit nearer…sort of like the Isle of Man really. But it is probably just as well that it isn’t, because if I could just pop to the wholesalers every few days Pearlescence would probably be bankrupt within the week. It’s so easy to buy pearls. You just say ‘yes’ and hand over money.
We had a great time. Hard work for many hours but there were pearls. There were friends and there was round the world food. Hong Kong takes its food very seriously. There are a myriad of great places to eat, with examples of every cuisine within a few streets where ever you are. We had Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese (of course) and Nepalese.
So, what about those pearls. Quality is advancing by the month, but at the same time production is down and prices are consequently up. Throw in the drop in value of the £ against the USA $ and the Hong Kong $ and I have brought back a stash of stunning metallic pearls in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the sadness is that prices must creep upward. When I first went to Hong Kong the HK$ exchange rate was 14HK$ to the £. Now it is 10.
Highlights from the trip.
1…Finding out that love of pearls does not necessarily fade with years
watching the President of the Hong Kong Pearl Association, Michael Sze, putting strands together from bags of loose pearls and clearly enjoying himself. Michael’s company is probably the supplier of the best quality freshwater pearls (no, not Grace) and he’s been in the pearl business well over 20 years but was still clearly enjoying himself putting strands together to take to the show which started in a couple of days. I spend a couple of days there, sitting opposite him for much of the second day as he made strands..watching and learning.
Qne special necklace made by Michael will be getting a blog entry all of its own
2 Huge Tahitians are coming soon
Catching up with Hisano Shepherd, of little h, and her strand of (souffle though they are not souffle) Tahitian pearls.
Hisano Shepherd and her strand of not-souffle Tahitian pearls
These Tahitian pearls look like freshwater souffles and are as big and as lustrous but the growing method to force the rapid growth and large size and different. Hisano and husband Jeremy Shepherd found this strand in Tahiti when there recently. There were a few loose similar pearls on sale at the show from one seller, but the prices were very high. Betty Sue King has taken a few to be assessed and investigated by the GIA.
Selling these enormous pearls has only been possible in the last few months since the legal requirement of a certain depth of nacre over the nucleus for export has been abandoned. These pearls would fail and not be exportable as they have no solid nucleus. I’ve seen similar growing efforts with south sea pearls, although weirdly, some of them also have a regular nucleus. Farmers are clearly experimenting. These will be exciting pearls, and indications are that once they start appearing in numbers in the market the prices will be affordable.
3 Freshwater Souffles
If you love freshwater souffle pearls stock up now as they are not being grown, at least in any numbers. Indeed the wholesaler who was the major supplier did not have any. But big beaded pearls and smaller beaded pearls are as common as all nacre freshwaters now
4 what is that noise?
The first show I went to had this clatter clatter shake noise echoing round the hall occasionally. I didn’t work out what it was. It was only at my second show I managed to catch noise and action together. Pearls being sieved. Pearls are sieved to sort them into sizes. The noise is distinctive and now, when you get to attend the Hong Kong show you’ll know exactly what it is first time!
There are lots more short videos available on the Pearlescence Facebook page – here
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.
The 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.
The 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.