Robert Wan Optimistic but Sells Only 40% at Auction

Robert Wan, chairman of Tahiti Perles, the largest producer of Tahitian black cultured pearls with private ownership of eight pearl farms, says he’s optimistic about the future market for Tahitian pearls, but he’s holding back on lowering prices and is leaving 60% of his auction lots unsold. Last December, Wan announced a reduction in his pearl production for the first six months of this year, “in order to set an example for combating the current pearl industry situation.”

“It was a very serious decision,” reported Wan, who says his goal is to improve quality and, of course, prices.

According to Wan, there are too many Tahitian pearls in the market. Production is too high. After trying to boost production over the past 25 years, Wan now is holding back, hoping to show other farmers the direction they need to take to stabilize the market. So even if the rest of the farms continue at the same pace, Wan’s reduced production should help. But Wan noted that, with a slow worldwide economy, especially in Japan, simply continuing pearl production at the same pace would drive the price of Tahitian pearls even lower.

In the first auction, only 40% of Wan’s pearls (48,788) were sold, at $3.5 million, roughly 20% over the reserve price and better than expected. Wan was pleased with the quality of the pearls he offered, which included a new variety of different-colored Tahitian cultured pearls in gold, copper, silver, blue, and pistachio. The average price for the pearls was $72 per pearl.

The previous September auction sold more than 50% of the lots, nearly 100,000 pearls, for more than $4.7 million. Selling about half as many pearls at the most recent auction, Wan netted about 60% more than he did at the September auction. The biggest buyers this time were from Hong Kong and Europe, with Japanese sales making a weak showing.

Wan reported that the most popular color again this year was peacock green. The most popular shapes sold were round and teardrops, with a minimum diameter of 14 mm. The Japanese bought smaller, 10-mm to 14-mm rounds.

The next Robert Wan/Tahiti Perles auctions in Hong Kong are scheduled for June 20-22 and Sept. 25-27. For more information on the pearl auctions and Tahiti Perles, log onto www.tahiti-perles.com.