Too Many Tahitians?

Tahitian pearls are French Polynesia's biggest source of export revenue and its second biggest economic contributor after tourism. Millions of dollars are generated annually from exported Tahitian pearls, which are counted among the world's unique luxury items. But there's some trouble in paradise. Although prices on top-quality Tahitian pearls remain high, less-than-perfect strands are available from some U.S. wholesalers for as little as $450, and prices on some Tahitian pearl jewelry items are half of what they were a year ago. Andre Asher, vice president, Albert Asher South Sea Pearl Co., New York, was alarmed at the low prices he saw at the Jewelers of America show in July. "What we think we should be making on pearls doesn't correspond to the prices dealers were selling them for," he says. During the 1970s and 1980s, as pearl production increased, so did the overall price per

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