JCK Show: Retailers are concerned with pearl quality

Enhancements such as bleaching and dyeing are considered a common practice among pearl producers, but one should always disclose any enhancement. That was the message from Gina Latendresse, president of the American Pearl Company, and Avi Raz, president of A&Z Pearls, Los Angeles, during Wednesday’s Pearl Market Panel. Many in the small but attentive audience of retail jewelers were concerned about the enhancement of a pearl’s luster.

The suggestion that pearls are (or can be) polished opened up a number of issues, including the repair of scratched pearls, replacement of pearls found damaged in heavily worn estate jewelry, and the probable reason behind the new high-luster Chinese freshwater cultured pearls. Raz pointed out that polishing, while a possibility, is probably not a factor in Chinese freshwater pearl production. “It’s just not economically feasible,” he said. There are too many pearls, and polishing would drive up the cost. Latendresse agreed and added that repolishing damaged pearls takes too long. “It’s hard work,” she said. “Every pearl has to be hand-polished. Repolishing a pearl can take a half day or even longer.” Of course, repolishing does sometimes take place-for example, on an important pearl. (The polishing process is a trade secret.)

Prices on high-quality Japanese akoyas remain strong, as demand still exceeds production, said Raz. Production numbers are improving, which is good news for Japanese producers. Japanese pearl farmers are coming to the realization that it’s important to take care of their farms, which include the waters in which the pearls are grown. Mortality rates are down, to less than a third of all mollusks, a vast improvement over the past few years, when estimates of oyster mortality ran as high as 70%.