Misusing Pearl Terminology: Let the Buyer Biwa

Pearl watchers at this year's Tucson gem shows encountered a noticeable rise in the misuse of pearl terminology, including "keshi," "Biwa," and "natural." In an article in the Washington, D.C., GIA Alumni Chapter newsletter and Web site, gem author and photojournalist Fred Ward discussed the recent increase in the number of keshi pearls and strands, noting that "the logical question is: 'What's going on?' " What's going on may simply be loose usage of pearl terminology. Lois Berger, an appraiser from McLean, Va., reminds us what "keshi" actually means. "The term is derived from the Japanese word for poppy seed, and it was originally used to describe small seed-size pearls found as byproducts of Japanese cultured pearls," she says. "These are not naturally occurring pearls." There are three ways for keshi to form, says Gina Latendresse of the American Pearl Company in Nashville, Ten

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