AGTA GemFair™ Tucson Daily Report
Friday, February 5, 2010

Diversity & Price Rope Buyers Into Pearls

Tucson, Arizona, Feb.5, 2010-Attractive prices and product diversity are the leading motivator in pearl sales at the American Gem Trade Association. Interesting shapes, unusual combinations, and rich natural colors are pulling buyers into the pearl fold.

gf image"People want something a little different and that's where we can capture more attention," describes Danny Livi, partner in the N.Y.-based DSL Pearl Inc. To succeed in this challenging economy, Livi says his company has compromised on shape and clarity to control cost, opting instead to focus on variety, which revived sales last year.

DSL introduced products that combine interesting pearls, including new bead-nucleated freshwater pearls from China, which many in the industry call "fireball", in big baroque shapes and natural colors like lavender and peach. A pearl strand in 18mm to 20+mm sizes wholesales for $1,000, 13mm to 16mm for $800. A great value, this product sold out for Livi by the third day. He also mixes peach freshwater pearls in strands with bluish-white South Seas that wholesale from $6,000 to $7,000 for 13mm to 16mm, larger sizes for $8,000 to $9,000.

Chinese freshwater pearls continue to captivate buyer attention, and new at the GemFair is a product that has not been seen on the market before. Introduced by Sea Hunt Pearls of San Francisco, Jack Lynch is calling them "Soufflé Pearls".

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"The method of cultivation is a new step in the coin pearl/spherical bead nucleation process," explains Lynch, who discovered these pearls while on a buying trip to the Far East last fall. "First a coin pearl is grown in the mussel and after it is harvested there is a pearl sack. Previously, the choices after that would be to insert a bead nucleus for a "fireball" type pearl or put it back in the water with no nucleus in hopes of a keshi. With this new process, they take some pond muck and form a dried hard mass and insert that as a nucleus. As the pearl is forming, water eventually seeps into the area with the nucleus and dissolves the hardened muck. When the pearl is drilled, the muck drains out and leaves a negative interior space. The walls of these new hollow pearls are thick, about 3mm, and stable." He notes that only one or two pearls can grow per shell, with the growing time about two years. He says sizes range from 13mm to 20+mm.


Undoubtedly, baroque shapes are exciting consumers today, especially in strands that mix colors, reports Leonard Federer of Tri Gem Pearls in New York. He notes that everyone in Tucson this year "is on a mission to buy." "Jewelers are looking for great value," he says, citing that a show special for 13mm Tahitian cultured pearl strands in good color and luster wholesaling for $2,000 attracted people to the booth. From there, he had the opportunity to show them many other things, with interesting shapes and color combinations resonating best.

Betty Sue King of King’s Ransom in Sausalito, California concurs that the unique and unusual is where it’s at in pearls. She has done well with such products as "kryptonite" gray Tahitian round pearls in 16+mm sizes that would bring superman to his knees, as well as natural peacock exotic colors ranging in size from 11mm to 16mm. She notes that large sizes have become increasingly difficult to find.

King also is exciting her customers with "out-of-this-world" metallic green gold-purple baroque keshi drops, in 14mm by 20mm sizes, and lustrous, brilliant multicolor nucleated baroque freshwater pearls in strands, pairs and loose, 13mm to 15mm by 17mm sizes.

Avi Raz of the L.A.-based A&Z Pearls believes that pearls are offering some of the best values on the market today-from big, bead-nucleated baroque Chinese freshwater pearls to Tahitian black and white South Sea cultured pearls.

"Chinese freshwater is one area that we've seen a vast improvement in quality," he reports, noting that the colors are all natural, the luster is bright, and the material is clean and beautiful. "It gives us more opportunity to present nice pearls to our customers."

Raz says that prices for Tahitian black and white South Sea pearls below 13mm-14mm in sizes have come down by 30 percent, as there is more supply than demand due to the soft economy, but recent auctions are indicating that this trend will likely begin to shift and prices will rise for these goods starting this year.

Sonny Sethi for the N.Y.-based Tara Pearls is optimistic the market will strengthen by mid-year. "Buyers are cautious, but they are buying and if this trend continues we expect to have a great show in Las Vegas," he says.

DSL partner Danny Livi
"Soufflé Pearls" Sea Hunt
Sea Hunt owner Jack Lynch
Tri-Gem Pearls owner Leonard Federer
Various colors of Tahitian black pearls King's Ransom.

Today at GemFair

 9:00 am     AGTA Annual Membership Meeting - GemHall
 9:00 am     Seminars start
10:00 am    Show Opens
 6:00 pm     Show Closes
 7:00 pm     GIA Lounge – Marriott University Park Hotel