Pearls Expectations and Prices on the Rise!

“Buying appeared vigorous and dealers felt it was a much stronger show than last year,” says pearl expert Lois H. Berger reporting on pearl sales during the Tucson Gem Shows for The Guide‘s Gem Market News.

“In the Chinese freshwater cultured pearl [CFWCP] arena, there was a standout hot item called ‘Petal Pearls,'” says Berger, G.G., NAJA, professional appraiser with Fuller and Associates, McLean, Va. She notes that their shape somewhat resembles a dogwood flower petal.

Larger sizes in fine quality, 10 x 12 mm, beige multicolor, very high luster, light blemish, excellent match, were seen priced at $450. Last year, notes Berger, a 14 x 12 mm petal-pearl strand, same quality, sold for $400. “Prices have gone up.”

Coin CFWCP prices were up also. “For example—round circle strands gauging 9.5 x 10 mm were $75 per strand; 10 x 11 mm priced at $225 per strand; and 11 x 12 mm were priced at $200 per strand.” Last year, for example, the 11 x 12 mm strands were priced at $150.

There was no shortage of Chinese pearls in Tucson. Sizes ranged from 1.8 x 2 mm to 15 x 16 mm, in off rounds to rounds, potato shapes, button shapes, semibaroques, ba-roques, and ovals.

Prices for CFWCPs ranged from $25 to $4,000. “The $4,000 strand was 13 x 12 mm, off-round to round, pastel colors, very high luster, blemished, with excellent match.”

Berger notes that CFWCPs are still overproduced. “The focus is on off-round 5 to 8 mm pearls of commercial quality. Prices on these pearls are down.”

But on the opposite end, Berger reminds us to have a greater appreciation for CFWCPs that are truly round with very high luster, often metallic, natural colors, clean, and with excellent matching. “One dealer displayed very high-end pearls at the show. Each strand was a beauty and collector’s item.”

Round CFWCPs are relatively rare and represent only 5 percent of total production. “I looked at eight strands ranging in sizes from 10 x 11 mm to 11.8 x 14 mm,” says Berger. “Prices ranged from $9,500 to $35,000. The $35,000 strand was 11.8 x 14 mm, round metallic pink, very high luster, clean, and excellent match.”

Akoyas Mix It Up. “One dealer mentioned that close to harvest time the Chinese akoya are taken out of the Chinese warmer waters and transported to Japanese colder waters for the last three months of cultivation resulting in better quality,” Berger says. It is believed that nacre is layered in a tighter configuration, producing higher luster, when akoyas are grown in colder temperatures, “Of course, Japan is the main processor of both Chinese and Japanese akoya cultured pearls,” says Berger.

“I’ve been told that strands of both Chinese and Japanese akoya cultured pearls are mixed, especially in smaller sizes up to 8 mm,” Berger adds. Berger was also told that the highest-quality strands, from 5 x 5.5 mm to 9 x 9.5 mm, use only Japanese akoya. Dealers we asked just shrugged their shoulders and said that they look only for quality, not origin.

South Seas. White South Sea round cultured pearls were not a big seller at this show, but the South Sea keshi baroque cultured pearls were popular and sold well, notes Berger. “Trends come and go, but I think the South Sea keshi cultured pearl popularity was unexpected,” she says. She also notes that baroque keshi shapes make a fashion statement.

Berger says Indonesian farms are now cultivating a smaller-size first crop of round 6 to 8 mm pearls, and she notes that these pearls are reportedly in the water for a shorter period for more rapid production. Once these smaller pearls are harvested, producers implant a larger shell bead into that empty pearl sac. This yields a larger second-generation pearl of 9 to 14 mm.

Tahitian South Sea cultured pearls were a huge success, says Berger. Mixed strands were also popular. “I saw a metallic light-pastel strand that was outstanding,” she says. The strand contained primarily Tahitians, with some Indonesian and Chinese freshwaters. Pearls measured 11.2 x 9 mm, oval, very high luster, very slight blemish, excellent match, and priced at $3,000.

The information in this report is intended to provide a cross section of what is available in the current pearl market. The grading methodology used by Berger for this report is the GIA pearl-grading system.

Special thanks to Lois Berger, Gina Latendresse and American Pearl Company, Marc Freeman and Freeman Pearl Company, Betty Sue King and King’s Ransom, Jack Lynch and Sea Hunt Pearls, Fuji Voll and Pacific Pearls, Sonny Sethi and Tara & Sons Inc., Albert Tsai and Otimo International, Joseph Nakamura and Shogun Trading Company, David Ohlgisser and King Plutarco Inc., Sayoko Adachi and Adachi American Corp., Fran Mastaloni and Frank Mastoloni & Sons Inc., and Avi Raz and A&Z Pearls Inc.

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