Pearls: Stronger Dollar Builds Opportunities

The rise of the U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen has sent an optimistic current through the U.S. cultured pearl industry. Strengthening it is a belief that consumer demand for quality akoya, black and South Seas pearls will continue slow but steady growth. As a result, dealers think they'll actually make some money this year. "It looks like 1995 had a good sell-through, so we should be looking at a year with steadily rising demand without a lot of old stock," says Ray Mastoloni of Frank Mastoloni Inc., New York, N.Y. Dealers are particularly encouraged that demand for akoya necklaces grew in 1995, even though the dollar was in a less favorable position against the yen through part of the year. Now that the dollar has regained some strength, dealers expect to recoup some of the cost increase they had to absorb last year. "If the dollar slips again, though, both sides will have to

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