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Pearls: CPAA Documentary Goes on a Fantastic 'Journey'

The Vault
By Jennifer Heebner, Senior Editor
This story appears in the May 2012 issue of JCK magazine
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Pearls: CPAA Documentary Goes on a Fantastic 'Journey'
Urchin necklace in sterling silver and 18k rose, white, yellow, and blackened gold with blue, pink, and yellow sapphires, tsavorite garnets, amethysts, and two Eyris Blue cultured pearls from New Zealand donated by Imperial of East Providence, R.I.; Evelyn Huang, Los Angeles; 213-996-8448; evelynh.com

Fantastic Voyage

If you’ve ever wondered how the beautiful pearls you sell actually get to your store—not counting the FedEx truck!—you’ll want to check out the recently released multi-DVD documentary, The Journey of the Pearl ($49.95 at cpaa.org or at JCK Las Vegas).

The project—produced by the Cultured Pearl Association of America—was a “labor of love” for Peter Bazar, president of Imperial Pearl in Providence, R.I.“It has always been a dream to document pearl farming around the globe,” Bazar told the press in February 2011 when the project kicked off.

A documentary film crew including Peter’s son, Josh, and the Los Angeles–based On the Reel Productions spent 29 days traversing the pearl world by boat and airplane in early 2011. They stopped in several regions in each producing country: Japan, the Philippines, Fiji, China, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. (The crew ran out of time to visit Australia.) At each stop, the filmmakers documented every stage of the pearl process—from the hatchery to seeding, farming, harvesting, and processing—as well as the local customs and cultures. Jeremy Shepherd, CEO of PearlParadise.com in Los Angeles, even joined the team for one leg of the journey to pick up some extra firsthand pearling experience.

The goal of the doc is to “cultivate awareness, interest, demand, and successful marketability of cultured pearls,” says Kathy Grenier, marketing director for CPAA and Imperial. The film is educational, but in a way that’s “meant to excite retailers about pearls,” she adds. “We want to create an alluring pearl experience in stores.”

Pendant in 18k gold with diamonds, garnets, tourmaline, and 12 mm–13 mm bead-nucleated freshwater cultured pearls donated by Grace Pearl of China; Paula Crevoshay, Albuquerque, N.M.; 505-898-2888; crevoshay.com

Each host nation gifted pearls to the CPAA for the purpose of creating one-of-a-kind jewelry that will be displayed at the CPAA booth at JCK Las Vegas. (Paula Crevoshay, Zoltan David, Joel Greene, Evelyn Huang, Dilly Kirby, Adam Neeley, Brenda Smith, Llyn Strelau, and Jerry Tanaka designed—and were filmed crafting—the pieces.)

The pearls donated to CPAA include Japanese akoya cultured pearls by K. Otsuki and Co. in Kobe, Japan; South Seas golden cultured pearls from the Philippines by Jewel­mer in Manila; South Seas cultured pearls from Fiji by J. Hunter Pearls in Savusavu, Fiji; bead-nucleated, freshwater cultured pearls from China by Grace Pearl in Zhejiang, China, and Sum Kam in Hong Kong; Tahitian cultured pearls from Tahiti by Yuen Hing Hong in Hong Kong; Chinese soufflé freshwater cultured pearls by Heng Mei in Hong Kong; Eyris Blue cultured pearls from New Zealand by Imperial; and Chinese fireball freshwater cultured pearls by GYSO in Hong Kong.

During the journey, the crew saw much more than just pearl production—particularly when they arrived at the Osaka airport in Japan shortly after the earthquake and tsunami struck. The filmmakers remained safely in Kobe, nearly 200 miles from the epicenter in Honshu, but the experience was harrowing, says Josh Bazar: “It was still too close for ­comfort.”

For more pearls of wisdom

“We sell dyed freshwater strands, some coin shapes, and white basic pearls. And $800 is our highest price point. We also don’t sell any branded pearls, only pieces we make in-house, and they are usually for the female self-purchaser. I am a fan of pearls, but most of our client base is not.”
—A.J. Craig, manager, McNulty Jewelers, Colorado Springs, Colo.

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