PEARL PRICES MAY ESCAPE HIGH YEN The free-falling U.S. dollar is having much less effect on akoya and South Seas pearl prices than originally expected, say pearl dealers. The Japanese yen, the currency in which virtually all pearls are traded, grew about 35% against the dollar in the first quarter of 1995 (from Y108=$1 to Y80=$1). This currency gap is too great for pearl producers to absorb, say some dealers. Bart D'Elia of B. D'Elia, New York City, believes a price hike is inevitable, especially on pearls over 8mm. (He does think that Japanese producers and the U.S. dealers will absorb some of the increase.) But some other dealers believe the prospect of a very poor year in Japan has left many producers eager to cut favorable deals for U.S. buyers - their best customers. "Things are dead in Japan, and suppliers need money like crazy because the banks have been pushing some of them

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