Tag Archives: edison pearls

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are Ming Pearls?

Ming pearls are simply one brand of bead nucleated freshwater pearls from China. Bead nuked pearls started to appear four years ago and can be divided into two main categories, depending on the quality of their nacre: either smooth or rippled. From this you can split the smooth into Edison (a brand from the pioneer of this type of pearl), Ming, (the second brand, not allied to any particular wholesaler) and generic bead nucleated pearls.

(Just to remind even more, until a few years ago freshwater pearls were usually all nacre, with pearl growth triggered by the insertion of just a sliver of mantle tissue into a host shell. It was only sea water pearls (South Sea, Tahitian, Akoya and a few freshwaters such as coin pearls) which had a bead template nucleus as well as that sliver of mantle tissue)

Edison pearls

These are Edison pearls

 Ming pearls

These are Ming pearls

bead nucleated freshwater pearls

These are generic bead nucleated freshwater pearls

ripple pearls

And, finally, these are ripple pearls

The Ming pearl name tends to be applied to the better quality of generic bead nucleated pearls. It is more of a description of quality than a brand. (Edison is a brand, belonging to one pearl farmer/wholesaler. They tend to be the most expensive and can be the finest quality available in the world)

In general these new bead nuked pearls can be, like any pearls, terrible quality, with pitted, ringed, thin and lumpy nacre and washed out colour with chalky lustre. That’s probably what you’ll get if you bought from an unknown seller on any auction site. Quality (and, of course, price) runs up to metallic lustred 15mm perfectly round. flawlessly smooth surfaced pearls

golden pearl pair

A pair of perfectly round, smooth, metallic golden pearls

The pair of pearls in the above photo would pass as a top quality pair of South Seas any day – and are still very expensive, but not as expensive as south sea pearls.

So..what are Ming pearls? They are usually the better quality generic bead nucleated freshwater pearls,  but some people throw that description at any quality of such pearls. As a quality description it is really pretty meaningless. Calling a pearl a Ming pearl does not of itself guarantee any sort of quality.

February 5 2016 addendum

Contrary to what was just claimed on QVC Honora do not buy up the entire harvest of Ming pearls. Pearlescence has plenty of Ming pearls in stock and will probably buy many more in three weeks when we go pearl buying in Hong Kong. The Honora claim is simply not true,

 

Day five.. pearl finding

White mirror metallic rounds.

White mirror metallic rounds.

A busy day again, full of pearl finding. I picked up where I left off, working through the wants list of loose single and pairs. It took more than an hour to find ten perfect pairs of AAA white mirror metallic pearls. It is staggering how many variations are possible in what should be a simple task – after all, how much variety can there be? Well the answer, of course, is zillions. For perfect pairs the size, colour, overtone, lustre and mirror size and quality must all match perfectly.

Of course that is perfection. Later in the day Betty Sue King and I were sadly contemplating some big round bead nucleated ‘pairs’ most of which were sort of maybe something like.  Betty Sue is a leading American pearl supplier with a lifetime of knowledge and skill in the pearl world. I just sit there learning when she is in the room.

Before that though one of the highlights was a collection of nuggety ice cream coloured 10mmish undrilled mirror metallics. Not sure what I will do with them, but at the moment I’m thinking some pretty and feminine station bracelets with silver chain.

Once I had paid for the pearls at the morning supplier I moved on to a second. Poking around the shelves, I pounced on some big and colourful bead nucleated baroques. Some of them huge -30mm and more. They were bead nukes gone a bit wonky.

Huge baroque bead nucleated pearls

Huge baroque bead nucleated pearls

Variable in quality, never the less, there were some big colourful baroques for some dramatic earrings. There were two bags of those, and then one bag of pretty rubbish pearls in which was modestly sitting this huge true blue pearl

The pearl is a true blue, not a grey with a blue overtone. It is truly blue

The pearl is a true blue, not a grey with a blue overtone. It is truly blue

The wholesale staff member and I both gasped. You can see how how big the pearl is. There are a couple of fairly big flaws but ..oh that colour!

It’s now mine (of course!)

For the last hour I dashed off to the findings supplier and grabbed silver, vermeil and gold clasps, earrings, pendant fittings, rings, enhancers and so on.  Oddly the staff wanted to go home, so I left my basket. I’ll select some of the beautiful Italian-made and designed woven silver necklets

 

 

Nacre depth on bead nucleated freshwater pearls

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the nacre depth on bead nucleated freshwater pearls, along with concerns about the materials being used as the nucleus.

Rather fortuitously while we were making up some necklaces recently and enlarging the drill holes so the silk can be doubled back and hidden two pearls split neatly in half.

One was a white 12.6mm Ming  – metallic lustre with rainbow overtones and the other was a prototype small Edison white round of 9.5mm and rippled creamier nacre (If you don’t know the two pearl brand names don’t worry, just ignore).

Nacre depth is a real problem with saltwater Akoya pearls. Some pearls spend such a short time being grown that you can see the bead through the nacre (this is known as blinking because the pearls appear to blink when rolled back and forth). Thin nacre is one of the reasons why we have not carried an extensive stock of Akoya pearls up to now – although having found a couple of suppliers who guarantee decent nacre we will be stocking them more in future)

Tahitian and South Sea pearls are always grown on an inserted bead

But bead nucleation has exploded onto freshwater pearls in just the last few years. With large grower to wholesaler Grace pearl leading the way Chinese pearl farmers are producing huge round pearls from a schegeli/cumingii hybrid in the most amazing range of colours, some pastel and some deep, such as deep purples, as well as rippled surfaced pearls, nicknamed ripple pearls, with shimmering play of colours and often an effect like gold leaf has been added in patches.

ripple pearls

Classic ripple pearls – pink, lavender, blues, and the gorgeous gold leaf overlay effect

Anyway, here is the result of the two broken pearls…

bead nucleated pearls- nacre depth

broken white bead nucleated pearls

You can clearly see the beads and the layer of nacre. In the smaller pearl the nacre is just 0.6mm thick (minimum depth for a Tahitian pearl is 0.8mm over 80% of the pearl surface) so that would be a fail, while the larger pearl has a happy 1.23mm of nacre. Plenty.

 

 

 

Bead nucleated pearls and tissue nucleated pearls.

There are two basic types of farmed pearls: bead nucleated and tissue nucleated. (The other main type classification is between cultured or farmed and natural or wild pearls)

Nucleation is the process which starts off the growth of a cultured or farmed pearl. It involves inserting something into a nacre-producing mollusc to trigger production of a pearl. This nucleus can be either just a tiny sliver of mantle tissue on its own or a sliver of mantle tissue plus a bead or other shaped foundation. In either case a nacre secreting pearl sac grows and a pearl is made within that sac.

Bead nucleated pearls include all tahitian and south sea pearls, akoya pearls and many modern big freshwater pearls (brands Edison and Ming) as well as fancy shapes such as coins or hearts.

Tissue nucleated pearls are mostly all freshwater pearls which are therefore all nacre, solid pearl. no bead inside. (Chinese and Biwa freshwaterpearls)

Keishi pearls are an exception. They are the pearls formed inside a usually pre-existing pearl sac from which a pearl has been removed (think of how a balloon looks when the air seeps out over time and you get the idea of a keishi pearl.

oyster diagram

Archetypical shellfish
1 Shell
2 area of mantle tissue from which donor tissue is taken
3 mantle
4 gonad
blobs pearl nucleation placements

Mantle tissue is used because that is the area of tissue which specifically secretes nacre. It’s usually there to make the mollusc’s shell but will produce nacre wherever it is – a talent utilised by the pearl farmer.

Placement of the nucleus varies as well. Beads are placed in the sex organ – the gonad – of the mollusc and only one per mollusc. (You might think that this would stop the mollusc from wanting to reproduce but there is some research which indicates it make them more not less active!)

Tissue nucleated pearl grafts can be many to a mollusc and are placed in the mantle.

The new big thing (last three or so years only) in pearls are the big freshwater bead nucleated pearls from China. These are branded as Edison pearls or Ming pearls or are described as ripple pearls. They are big – up to 17mm, round or symmetrically baroque (because of the bead inside), have a lustre ranging from metallic to gloriously satiny, and a smooth to convoluted or rippled. They come in a range of natural colours from white to pink, purple, peach, gold, with greens and blues. (you can see our ripple pearls here and we have smooth surfaced Edison and generic bead nucleated pearls throughout the freshwater section ..here is one beautiful example of a bead nucleated Edison pearl necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Four…Tahitian Temptation and A Single White Edison

Day four. This is my account of how I made the classic mistake and went back to a wholesaler..and then finally bought a perfect Edison pearl

I went to the Tahitian office just to look for one pearl (of which more below) I didn’t find it but a couple of hours later I did totter out with several strands of pretty Tahitians as well as single rounds and drops for earrings and pendants.

That was not the plan! But some strands had quietly called me from when I saw them a couple of days ago – rather yummy shades of chocolate Tahitians – milk, plain and white chocolates. Then the boss wandered over and waved some other very colourful circles under my receptive nose. None of them are perfect strands: they’re marked and flawed but very lustrous and I will be able to hit a great price point for Christmas with them. Many of the flaws will only show up to the experienced eye from more than a few inches away.

It’s all too easy to get obsessive and perfectionist about having the perfectly round, perfectly smooth, perfectly flawless and perfectly lustrous pearl but from only a short distance only big flaws are visible.

I also spent some time poking around the bags of loose rounds and drops to find pearls for earrings and pendants and enhancers. I didn’t find as many as I want from the whole trip but it is something I can do at the show next week

So, why was I at the South Sea wholesalers anyway? I was on a mission to find a single perfect 14-15mm white round pearl for a customer for a ring. There were no South Seas within budget but I made the mistake of sitting down and looking round!

I found a totally luscious 16mm white Edison at another office – perfectly mirror metallic with a subtle pink and green overtone but it was way over budget. It was the sort of pearl you could take home and just look at.

white pink green 15mm round

white 15mm metallic pearl with pink and green overtones.

Eventually I switched on my brain and went to the home of Edison pearls (dur!) and of course they plenty to chose from. The one I eventually selected is perfectly round, flawless to all intents, mirror metallic with a perfectly round fish-eye and with a faint pink overtone. Bang on budget too!

five white edison pearls

Can you see which of the five I finally selected – all had the same grade but one was more metallic than the others. Proves the need to select in person. (it’s the one bottom left at 7 o’clock)

I’ve also picked out some non-classic Edisons – smallish mis-shape seconds, but I’ll be able to break the strands to make some great necklaces. Dustbin liner bags full of pearl strands gone through to find a few.

Finally another office and bags of ‘biwa’ stick pearls with fabulous lustre from which I selected some stunning pearls to develop a design idea. They had some amazing fireballs but the biggest and wildest shapes were just too expensive.

undrilled stick pearls

natural colours undrilled natural colours stick pearls. I picked these from a huge bag of AAA,

That was day four.