Monthly Archives: September 2016

September Hong Kong reflections and musings…

I think that this was one of my all time favourite trips to Hong Kong. It was so humid that breathing felt a bit like sucking air through a sponge at times, and too much air con made my sinuses very angry, but in terms of pearls and pearl friends, perfect.

Prices were generally stable, with some silliness, especially from one company which made it very clear you can slap any old price on an item but it is only the item’s value when someone will pay it. $40k for a muddy purple strand of Edisons which weren’t even well matched? Those high priced strands weren’t even super-special. Very nice yes, rich colour, pretty clean and shiny but special…no. Grace has cut prices on a lot of stock this time around – a lot of the good colour ripple strands were really cut in price from around $1k (too high) to down to $300 which is what everyone else charges for comparable. Grace had trays and trays of the ear-wax dyed ‘gold south seas’ too- which were not selling much
There were no strands of the distinctive raspberry purples like the ones I treated myself to 18 months ago. That really does seem to have been a one-off colour from that harvest (smug mode)

There’s nothing new on the horizon, such as bead nucleated or souffles (very rare now though selling to India!) on the horizon. (although one wholesaler had just sold his entire stock of 20kg of souffles just before I arrived. That’s a lot of light big pearls
Prices are volatile: top quality prices are up while medium are down
Best seller for most sellers is high quality white rounds
Singles prices are very high
There are very few large size dyed black or natural colour singles around
Tahitian and south sea prices are falling, for less than top quality.
Funnily enough there is hardly any dyed coloured stock to be found. Any that is has probably been hanging around for years.

Day 7. Days of lustre – Final day at AWE

My final day.  I had an idea overnight so off to AWE (Asia World Expo, the huge exhibition facility near to the airport on Lantau Island, about 30 minutes from Kowloon) to find the pearls I needed – handy to have the idea before I go home rather than after, which would be what I usually manage.

So I was on a mission. First off I managed to find some new clasps by accident though.

new clasps

new clasps

These little sparkles have a post which fits right into the drill hole of the last pearl and fasten and open with a push/twist. A bonus is that once you have the ends fitted to a necklace you can change the ball to suit your whim, and they can be worn clasp out, as a feature bead.  I’ll be interested to see how they go, and also need to figure out how to finish the knotted silk without a loop to go around..that’s one to keep me awake.

Long time friend Nerida Harris,  director of Australian pearl super company Pearl Perfection had only just arrived after back to back trade shows, so we grabbed a quick coffee before she shot off list in hand. Nerida took me under her expert wing when I came here to Hong Kong for the first time. We found one of the first lots of ripple strands buried under lots of other pearls on the Grace pearl stand and split them three each. We gasped at the beauty and colour of these totally new pearls.

But on to the pearls I wanted. Without giving away my idea just yet I needed to look for some specific pearls. Not common or usual at the show, but when I found a stand with a couple of bags of them, oh the bliss of sitting down and going though them all to find just the ones which fitted the brief.

I thought I was done after that and was vaguely thinking ‘if I spend any more time here I’ll just spend’ and ‘lunch sounds nice’ when I made the mistake of showing my little collection to pearl total goddess Betty Sue King, who has forgotten more about pearls than most people ever learn and whose eye is trusted the world over. She loved the pearls so back to the stand we went and spent nearly two hours going through the whole lot again.

Sitting trawling through bags of pearls with someone as fabulous and nice as Betty Sue is a lovely, unstressed way to finish an amazing time in Hong Kong. Here we are, up to our elbows in pearls. What could be better?

Betty Sue King

Me and Betty Sue King

Goodbye Hong Kong

Lustre day 6..Blue, blue and blue

Another lustrous day. First off we had a private viewing of some fabulous Riketea Tahitian pearls, Beautiful lustre and colour. Plus south seas; gold, white and blue.I think I could have very happily bought every single pearl. There were strands and single pearls, including some huge blue south sea pearls

blue baroque south sea pearls

Huge blue south sea baroque pearls, up to 18mm

Riketea Tahitian pearl strands

Rketea Tahitian pearl strands












One interesting snippit of information was the variation in nacre deposition between apparently identical Vietnamese akoya pearls on the same farm and growing side by side (there are only three akoya pearl farms in Vietnam)

Akoya pearl growth rates

Both pearls grow on the same tiny nucleus in the same conditions on the same farm, nucleated at the same time and harvested at the same time.

You can see how tiny the nucleus is -0.9mm- and in only eight months there is enough nacre to keep everyone very happy indeed. The pearls are 8mm and 7.4mm

Only Vietnamese farms seem to produce the really strong blue akoya, although they were scarce except in the baroque singes which I selected on the first day of the show. There were strands of grey with a blue cast but none of the startlingly royal blues which are possible occasionally.

Speaking of blue pearls, here is one of the Riketea atoll strands, every one a true  blue tahitian pearl, rather than green with a blue cast. Quite lovely.And large 10mm to 13mm with metallic lustre.

Blue tahitian pearl strandBlue tahitian pearl strand

Blue tahitian pearl strand

In the afternoon I went right across the huge Asia World Expo site to the other end to the hall with tools, and had a bit of a Tim Taylor interlude.

There were 3d printers printing gold items, laser cutters as well as machines for making the wax forms for lost wax casting.and the basic tools for silversmiths, which probably haven’t changed for centuries. Indeed probably one of the superb craftsmen from millennia ago in Egypt would not only recognise most tools but be able to pick them up and set to work with them.

I treated myself to a proper set of ring measures and a ring measure stick. I’ve only been wanting them for 20 years so it was probably time without being profligate

Finally I went to catch up with Andrew, the boss of the world class polishing cloth company Town Talk. It’s one of those silly things that we are based only about 25 miles apart but have to travel to Hong Kong to talk!

Town Talk Polish Cloths. Made in Lancashire

Town Talk Polish Cloths. Made in Lancashire





Lustre Day 5..Few pearls…much work

Looking at today’s spoils…it seems a very small lot, for a day’s quite intense work.  There are some stone set clasps which caught my eye because they have posts which go into the drill hole of a full drilled pearl rather than rings for silk plus French wire. So they will need experimentation.  They could be the next big thing in opening and closing…but only if the adhesive adheres. I suspect that there is quite a stress on the glue fixing when the clasp is undone. But they look very pretty

Next I spent some time finding a very few decent 11-12mm black buttons. It;s hard to find black pearls still. There are smaller ones, but trying to match the larger ones for shape, colour, lustre and size……I also waded through smaller {9-10mm} natural colour buttons. Even from a huge bag I only found one pair which satisfied my criteria.I did get some of the singles though, because they had stunning lustre.

Finally I was spotted by the lady who used to look after me at one tahitian wholesaler, who told me she had now moved to another firm. We did some catching up and I looked at the pearl stock. I got a pair of lovely white Paspaley south sea drops from Australia, some gold round south sea pairs and some fun single tahitians, including a couple of what we decided are polemon pearls – aka pokepearls.




Lustre Day 4..first day of show

A wonderful first day out at the Asia World Expo gem fair, though the humidity (95% and more) is so sapping that I crawled to my room and individual aircon ridiculously early. So today’s blog will be a bit light on photos simply because at times it was hard to think through the soggy.

At these shows my first stop is now always the lovely ladies of the small company which produces akoya pearls from their one farm in Vietnam. They are always so welcoming and patient that it makes a lovely start to the day.

The first thing I want to look at are the little packets of their baroque pearls. Tiny packets of super metallic bue, pink, green and grey. Each one unique and surely an inspiration for any designers

vietnamese baroque pearls

Such amazing little gems

It is such fun sorting through the packets, marvelling at the rich colours and incredible lustre of these tiny gem pearls. Which one will excite a designer? There was a deep and rich royal blue one which I picked while it was still in the packet, scrabbling round in the tiny envelope to grasp it, it was so striking. And there was a lovely little drop too. You can tell that the colour is strong in these pearls because you can still see it clearly in the photo, in spite of the efforts of the fluorescent lights to wash out any trace of blue.

Next up the ladies showed me their few strands of natural colour akoya pearls. The strand I selected stood out, luminous metallic lustre and such beausiful colours.

The two darkest pearls are deep blue and deep green.

I also got some strands of tiny baroques, multicoloured. These pearls come from one farm in Vietnam. They are very ethically and sustainably produced

natural colour vietnamese akoya pearls

Believe it or not these are all natural colour akoya pearls natural colour akoya pearls


vietnamese akoya pearls

Tiny Vietnamese akoya pearls, natural colours of greys, pinks,boues, greens. Metallic

It doesn’t take long to write about it, but selecting these strands, chatting and settling such vital stuff as the price take well over an hour.

Next stop is always the main findings company. All the findings they currently have in stock are laid out in small packets and I’m soon rifling through hundreds of different clasps, earrings, and all sorts of silver. the table top is very wide so to reach the ones at the back I debated climbing right up there..but in the end just stretched. Not sure how that looked from the back!. Trying to work out what will be needed for our various couture and ready to wear lines, new ideas and one offs for customers, as well as for other designer makers is a bit of an exercise!. But having grabbed a good selection I know I can call back for a second browse..probably to buy the same new designs all over again.  There is a lot of silver with very subtly inlaid CZ for just a little sparkle

There’s more black – anodised – silver than I expected: and less rose gold vermeil.

Finally – it’s now gone 2pm – I spend the rest of the time at one of the tahitian and south sea suppliers. One white SS and one gold SS strand and then a poke around in their lot bags for the surprise pairs and singles which will make great jewellery – including a matched pair of 15mm gold south sea buttons.One is very slighty darker than the other, but with a head in between the it certainly won’t be noticeable t9 any but a pearl expert. Result!

Tired. Back to Kowloon, food and back to room to write this. G’night

Lustre day 3

Tahitians are getting in on the act. More lustre. More colour. After sifting through nine lots of Tahitians of all shapes, sizes and colours, I, try the tenth and last, and it yields all the pearls I want, including some spectaular silver body and pink eye pearl pairs for studs, some more blues and a couple of huge drops.

blue tahitian pearls

Truely blue Tahitian pearls

The blues of these blues hasn’t really come through in this photo but they are a lovely royal blue and will look stupendous with the paler blues I got yesterday. I think I am building a necklace. No more of those pink ones though..

Those Tahitians were pure serendipity in one way though as I had no intention of getting any such at this particular seller’s. Once again i got stuck after planning just a couple of hours in that office. Many pearls, including some minute white keishi, probably 3mm, which will make some very pretty delicate bracelets, I think, matched with 7mm petal keishi discy lumps which will be drilled for stud earrings. That’s definitely the sort of drilling where you don’t actually dare look as you drill



Lustre Day 2

Day 2 was a very shiny day. Metallic all the way. Had intended to go to this wholesaler and that one and maybe call in at another too. In the end I was at the first place all day. He lured me with shiny things.

Gorgeous tahitians. every possible colour

Gorgeous tahitians. every possible colour

First up was a large bag of mixed Tahitians. Probably a couple of thousand in the bag. After going through the I think I selected some gorgeous silver grey and pink ones, some blues and a pair of silver and pink rounds for studs which already have a home lined up – 12mm and up.

The grey and pink ones are mostly pink. Really unusual.

I decided to go with the trend and get some of these really pretty,feminine and delicate graduated strands in natural colours and all whites. I’m not looking forward to stringing the tiny tinies.

So feminine

So feminine

Then I remembered I did have a  list so next up were 7mm white drop pairs – one card matched of super metallic..and I mean super metallic ..pairs. Then on to 9mm drops. another card and pick out the rare long thin drops and finally pair them too. The lustre on these pearls really was spectacular.

Going though the white drops, I could not help


Huge box of metalic drops

Huge box of metallic drops

but reflect that I was rejecting – as not metallic enough -pearls which would have been remarkable ten years, or even five years ago, as not shiny enough. the pairs selected are really super metallic. Dazzling. I wondered where the quality goes from super-metallic shiny, white, great drop shape and clean surface. You can see the large box and guesstimate how many pearls are in it, full to the brim. All metallic. Just some with the matched overtones and degree of lustre, shape and size.

Next to where I was being dazzled by the whites was a long time member of staff at this office. With interruptions he spent the whole day sorting and pairing 5mm round white pearls from a pile of many thousands.

September Hong Kong Show..oh the lustre. Day 1

The senior man at my favourite wholesalers here in Hong Kong has me totally sussed as a real pearl junkie. His – very successful – technique is to wander past me, with some amazing new pearls in his hand, letting me catch just a glimpse, like allowing a dog to catch just a whiff of a steak.

So I’m sitting there. feeling a  bit disoriented, long flight, not much sleep . check in to hotel and straight out to get the pearls, and I’m looking for some huge perfect white buttons. when he comes over with this hank of five strands of the most amazing – that is most amazing- huge natural coloured rounds. One strand in particular has all metallic lustre and I can already hear it’s siren sussuration..’I’m so pretty..take me home with you, take me home. I love you…take me home’ I’m resisting so hard. This trip is all about specimen singles and pairs. It’s going to be sitting in offices going through thousands of pearls for those double double shiny elusive few which you can only source in person.

Within seconds this one strand especially is talking to me, and I’m cooing back at it and stroking it.

Love at first sight

Love at first sight

still in love

still in love

Now there have been a lot of natural colour bead nucleated pearls around in the last year or so, most of them with very washed out colour, as if they had been bleached in the sun. There were the very rare spectacular deep plum strands a few years ago, but none even of those in spite of the clamour for them at the last couple of trips. Deep rich coloured bead nucleated pearls were not happening. Then these five strands. All deep rich colour and with lustre from very very good to metallic. From talking with other buyers last night it seems as if each wholesaler has managed to source just a few strands.

With its friends

With its friends

So far I have resisted…sort of. That one strand is tucked away in a drawer. Oh I am so weak.

But what would  you do?







In other news of pearls from an afternoon of rather jet laggy selecting (HK is seven hours ahead. The plane I travelled on had recently played host in the cargo hold in the tail to 12 horses, two elephants and one £1m+ car…though not at the same time. The flight attendant allowed me a peak into the hold. Just packages and webbing and all remarkably scruffy, with a faint wiff of horse still lingering)

Lustre is simply getting better and better. Wholesalers are taking to labelling stock AAAA when they have a bag full of metallics. Supplies are good and prices stable.