Tag Archives: pearls

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tahitian minimum nacre depth law scrapped

The law requiring a 0.8mm  minimum nacre depth requirement over 80% of the pearl surface  for all Tahitian pearls is being scrapped from next January.

The French Polynesia government and pearl producers have collaborated to bring in a new oversight regime for pearls which will bring in quotas for farms and lagoons to protect the environment and prevent over-intensive farming but which will allow all pearls to be sold commercially and exported – at the moment thin nacre pearls are destroyed. While some in the pearl business have already thrown up their hands and gone ‘waily-wail it’s all doomed’ I do feel that French Polynesia is to be congratulated for at least tackling their problem with a bold step, rather than shoving their heads more firmly into the ground, which is often the default setting of governments -and industry. What they are doing at the moment is not working post-recession.

Producers will still be able to apply to the government inspection service for their pearls to be x-rayed and certified and it is likely that this will continue for high grade pearls . Nacre depth is an indicator of good farming practice since there has been time and effort expended by the farmer.

multicoloured tahitians

Multicoloured and HUGE Tahitian pearls. The surfaces are a bit marked but the lustre and colour and size sort of cover that

But it does open the way for any old tat to flood onto the market. Indeed smuggled pearls (fairly easy to smuggle pearls really) already out there show thin to non-existant nacre, with the nucleus visible, with any old whatever used as the nucleus and with blinking (where the pearl, when rolled, seems to be blinking at you – due to the missing nacre)

The effect of this, at least in the short term is that, if you want decent pearls, more than ever you will need to trust your supplier, be it retailer, wholesaler or even farmer. Everywhere in the chain of supply there will be a divide into cheap old rubbish with a nacre depth of …well, a smear and high quality – good colour and lustre and thick nacre.

You buy wholesale and the lot will be all mixed up from several sources – who is to say which pearl has which certificate. Or select a single one – does the wholesaler photocopy the certificate for a single farm lot – if he indeed has one.. So x-ray and certify was great in theory but in practice…it was great in theory.

They are probably looking also at the Akoya market. You can have rubbish Akoya, even unto blinking, or you can have amazingly amazing pearls which require sunglasses they are so shiny. And you can also get a certificate for your high quality pearls. Or not.
And of course there is no way to tell, even if you have a certificate, that it actually applies to that pearl. There is some work being done on implanting a readable micro chip into each and every nucleus to enable real identification, But that will push up prices and who has a reader?

One excellent thing though is that, with the minimum nacre thickness over the nucleus rule going souffle Tahitians, grown in a way something similar to freshwater souffles and just as bg and with just such amazing lustre, will now become legally commercially available. Expect 20mm irregular shaped baroque Tahitians next year.

Pearl exports have plummeted:The latest figures from the Institute of French Polynesia statistics indicate that in April, exports of raw pearls fell sharply (65% in value).

lighter shades of tahitians were much more attractive than darks, which looked muddy

lighter shades of tahitians were much more attractive than darks, which looked muddy

Previously pearls which failed the x-ray assessment were destroyed by Marine and Mineral Resources Branch (DRMM) in the presence of pearl farmers. “We want to sell more beads,” said Baldassari Aline Bernard, president of the Professional Union of pearl producers. ” Before, there were stringent controls on the layer of the pearl and visually, that were really disadvantageous for producers and traders (…) It was becoming unbearable

Teva Rohfritsch, Minister of pearl farming, said that now pearl farmers can market according to their choices and their market strategies,

In reality once the pearls had entered the supply chain either legally after inspection or smuggling there was little beyond trust and expertise to guide a buyer. I’ve only once had a certificate for pearls and that was when I bought direct from Kamoka . And the system was obviously flawed as I could have photocopied the certificate and handed it out with any old pearls.

In the last few years, as the world has been in recession, Tahitian pearl farmers and wholesalers have been hit hard, especially with the ascendancy of high quality bead nucleated freshwater pearls from China, which give a lot of pearl for your £, compared to Tahitians and South Sea pearls. (although Chinese bead nucleated pearl farmers are closer to emulating white south sea pearls than Tahitians)

Tahtian Black Pearls - aka dyed freshwater pearls from China

Tahtian Black Pearls – aka dyed freshwater pearls from China

Pearlescence will still go for quality product. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. I suspect that a lot of rubbish will be marketed as ‘wow we have tahitian pearls at the price of freshwater’ when the reality is that the customer will be buying something with a smear of nacre. I can’t claim ‘no veneer in here’ because all bead nucleated pearls are veneered in reality, but Pearlescence tahitians will still be the best quality we can find for the price you want to pay.
This is good for the future of the industry. At least they are doing something to keep going. I met with a huge south sea firm in HK in march and the pearls they had were very nice, round of course and they had lots in the 10-12 white pairs range. They told me they had fabulous lustre and were $150 a pair or some such. As it happened I had just been to one of my wholesalers (this was a sale in a hotel suite) and had some 10 and 12mm white bead nucleated freshwaters. Whipped them out and they were aghast at the quality, after lengthy sneering at the whole concept of freshwater pearls. The freshwaters outshone their pearls and were $50 a pair. (prices not exact as going from memory). I asked them why would any customer of mine go for a pair of studs made from their pearls when they could pay a third….I agree some connoisseurs might and will but the average customer…nope
Chinese freshwaters are getting very close to a really good imitation of white south sea with that elusive satin lustre and also to gold. Golds are good when you look at one or two on their own but they have an ear-wax brown look en masse still (like the dyed SS themselves). I’ve seen lots of smaller dyed fresh which look close to peacock tahitian but no real attempts to make them imitate tahitian strands so far.
The whole pearl thing is in flux

 

Prices rising for the best pearls

Confirmation that prices for the best pearls are rising comes from the prestigious JCK magazine, which features quotes from my pearl friend Jack Lynch, of Sea Hunt pearls.

Read the full story here

Jack was talking about the more purple strand of natural deep pink bead nucleated pearls he got at the same time I got mine (see earlier in the blog for my getting them last March and then not finding any more in September in Hong Kong)

What wasn’t mentioned was how prices are rocketing for under 3mm pearls since everyone is focussing on big beaded pearls

Santa search – new gift finder feature

A whole new feature on the website just went live. Code name Santa search It’s the new easy-peasy gift finder search program I thought up a couple of weeks ago and which our amazing webmaster Neil has constructed so that it has come out exactly as I thought up.

The whole idea is to make it easy for people who are confused by the full website to have just one or two choices of pearl colour and price range. They can pick one of the suggestions or then follow it up with either phone or email if they don’t see what they want or like and we can take it from there.

Hopefully this will make it much easier for those who are daunted by choice!

 

A fun surprise

Sometimes I find myself wishing that Hong Kong wasn’t quite so far away. Being here is fabulous, but the long flights are to be endured to some extent. We can’t all jump on a plane as soon as we feel an urge to buy a couple of strands! So far my friend in pearldom, Patricia, hasn’t managed it. So today I did a fun surprise and video called her from a wholesale office and roped her in to help select some strands.

pearl strands

The white strands here are the collaboration. The coloured ones haven’t come out very well, they are nice strong natural colours

Patricia is the owner of Beaders’ Secret, the two-strand knotting synthetic thread

It was fun to show Patricia the bags and piles of pearls jammed onto shelves in several rooms plus being able to hear the talk in several languages, the rattle of pearl sieves and the clinj and clunk

We found some great white rounds, all metallic  and then I found a bag with a few hanks of really strongly coloured near round natural colour pearls – you can see the picture. It’sturned them a bit grey rather than nice pinks etc but you can see that they are strong colours. There’s quite a lot of washed out peach around.

I met Jack Lynch of Sea Hunt Pearls. We had a small joint moan at the lack of plentiful good high end pearls. Due in most part to there only being one harvest this year  because of the downturn in the china economy.

There are none of the stunning deep pink to purple bead nuked strands around this time. Jack had a more purple strand to my raspberry-ish one. I was thinking that I would find a couple more pearls to lengthen it but can’t even find two! And dream on for a pair of undrilled or half drilled for some earrings.

Commercial grade pearls plus lots of peach are available, but I’ve had to burrow deep in bags to find the metallics. It proves the value of schlepping all the way here at least and why we few do it.

Goldsmiths’ Company event for students

.Yesterday and Friday the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the London Assay Office held an event for UK jewellery students to learn about all sorts of businesses which support and supply their crafts and skills, from all about hallmarking itself to……pearls………..US!

outside the guild's hall

The flag’s out -outside the guild’s hall

Over the two days we’ve talked ourselves hoarse about pearls (my voice has dropped about an octave at least!) with students and with some of the leaders of the jewellery business in the country. I don’t know if I wasn’t more excited than many  of the students at who was there and who we met.

Through the imposing doors and up the sweeping staircase to our waiting stand, in the livery colour of crimson with Pearlescence in gold lettering, and under the crest of the livery company (www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk)- I know from a previous visit that security is very tight – it has to be because the London Assay Office, which checks and oversees the quality of £millions in precious metals is on the top floors.(www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/welcome-to-the-assayoffice)

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

The Drawing Room is the room used by the film company to stand in for Buckingham Palace in the film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren. It’s all white and gold,

We set up and go round to see who else is here. It’s by invitation, and many of us are as stunned as I am to have been asked. There’s a big buzz of excitement…

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths' Hall

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths’ Hall

Pretty soon the students start to flood in and immediately home in on the fireballs I’ve brought. My aim in choosing what to bring was to keep it pared down and show that there is so much more to pearls than white and round and the fireballs and big ripples I selected start their job immediately. By the end of the two days I think I explained how fireballs happen at least once per hour! The students love them, and fireballs.

I did several knotting demonstrations as well during the two days. By the last one my co-ordination had gone completely and I got knots!

me plus demonstration table

me plus demonstration table

At the end, @goldpolisher and I both asked if we could keep our name labels from the front of our stands as souvenirs. We abruptly changed our minds though when it was pointed out that this would mean we would not be coming back. ‘Keep them…Please!’

Special thanks to @stevelao and Alison of the assay office, plus to the wonderful, unfailingly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly Goldsmiths’ Company and London Assay Office staff.

Most memorable moment…Looking at the panels on the wall listing the Masters of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths dating back to 1317 and realising that I’m standing right there – by invitation!

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,

 

Diamonds and Pearls

Two old adages had it that you couldn’t wear diamonds and pearls together and that pearls were for daytime and not evening. Don’t mix diamonds and pearls.

Well phoeey to that one – as shown last night you certainly can.The Duchess of Cornwall rocked some rocks and a three strand pearl necklace with a stonking sparkly clasp last night and looks stunning .

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

The tiara is the Cubitt-Shand tiara, a legacy of Camilla’s maternal grandmother Sonia Rosemary Cubitt, Baroness Ashcombe (née Keppel).

Day…? Final reflections

Final reflections on this year’s buying trip. There are good pearls out there, but the only way to find them is undoubtedly to select them in person. With the best of relationships with a supplier, if you order, say, 10 strands of AAA white 8mm round pearls, that is what you will get, but you won’t get ten with metallic lustre. You’ll just get 10 strands from the AAA white 8mm bag or hank. Nor will you get pearls like that blue baroque Edison or the ripple gold south sea. They were both one-offs which I had to be there to scoop.

I had all sizes and shapes of loose (that means individual not strands) half drilled pearls on the big list. They had been very short of supply last year and this year was not much better. I don’t think I found any blacks which I wanted to buy in any shape or size. And just a few natural colours. Given that loose pearls are invariably more expensive than pearls in strands you would think that decent pearls would be selected out for this, but it seems not.

Bead Nucleated freshwater pearls continue their march for pearl world domination, with non-Edison branded pearls now very close in quality to the originator of the method and with a rapidly expanding portfolio of sizes, colours and surfaces. I saw, not just ripples and smooth big pearls but more of the baby white Edisons (I still have some from last year), smaller coloureds, tiny round 5mm vibrant coloured ones I was told were keishi, and generally more and more ‘routine’ pearls with a bead instead of solid nacre. Are solid nacre freshwater pearls going to disappear or be so rare as to be highly prized a few years into the future?

Finally, we are pawing at the pearls from today once we have caught up with the order backlog (for which we massively apologise) and we will be posting new makes and pearls as soon as we can in a separate section (we have yet to think up a good name for it!) watch not this, but that space

 

 

Day seven….winding down

Winding down now, most of the pearls we wanted have been found. It’s been a good trip, Successful, with beautiful pearls. I think that everything which could be metallic is metallic. I’m already thinking up designs and work plans for one-off silver and goldsmithing.

Time for some reflections. There is still something of a shortage of medium sized natual colour and black rounds, drops and buttons for earrings with metallic lustre and good colour. Many of the pearls are washed out in colour.

There are very few souffles around. There were some strands and loose at the main souffle supplier but they were light and ho-hum in colour, allbeit with good lustre. I wonder if production is tailing off, reflecting falling demand. At the same time another supplier seems to have been trying to produce something similar – what were described to me as baroque bead nucleated pearls looked like souffles rather than regular baroques. They had a bead ( you could hear it rattling in some) but at the same time there was a dark brown organic stuff inside each pearl between bead and nacre. It was a dried out flaky substance. No information forthcoming on how the pearls were produced.

Bead nucleated is very much the thing. Solid nacre is almost becoming the exception. If you are wanting a sold nacre freshwater ‘classic’ white strand my advice would be to get it soon because solid nacre is going to get rarer – ask yourself….if you can produce round pearls with a bead and know most of your production will be round and at least AA wouldn’t you opt for that rather than hoping that the miracle of round and perfect AAA?

There are more and more bead nucleated natural colours and white big round pearls with smooth surfaces and great lustre. Prices are plummeting with most suppliers.  At the same time there are lots of very pallid ones out there. Mostly I don’t get them, but some had a blue/silver overtone and I’ll call them moonlight pearls. If you go for cool colours these may be the ripples for you.

From a personal business viewpoint, the main impression which has struck me is the difference in attitude to their customers between the big companies and the smaller ones. The big ones aren’t really interested in small companies and don’t want to deal with us – that was made very clear when four of us were left in the hands of an employee who had worked for the company for a week only while every other member of staff looked on. I’ll not be even looking at their stock in future And another big player had sacks of real rubbish and year old low end stock alongside their top grade freshwaters. There the folk who deal with us regularly are delightful but the managers are sour faced and never even look at you. Conversely, the smaller suppliers have the same stock, often cheaper, and know me and are pleased to see me. We compare photos of grandchildren and discuss all manner of issues (well, mostly pearl issues) Where would you go?

If you can’t be bothered to be pleasant why should I give you my money?

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

 

 

Day Two…..Phew……lots of pearls

A great day.Spent the whole day at my favourite supplier and we’ve made some serious inroads into the big ‘wants’ list.Lots of pearls.

9.30 in the morning. I’m already seated at the big table, and there are some huge dark ripples spread out before me. Life is good!

 

one ming and a soft gold strand

In the end I selected a beautiful AAA metallic strand of bead nucleated pearls, a strand of really big soft gold white ripples and a strand of huge dark ripples.

Next were bead nucleated singles. various sizes and I’ve got a collection of the most stunning colours with the most intensely metallic lustre you could ever want

Stunning drops

Stunning drops

 

Then I was shown some of the latest harvest of Ming bead nucleated pearls. Phew. Up to 17mm, pretty much clean with only faint blemishing and metallic lustre and rich colour. I couldn’t decide which to select (all three?) so asked Twitter. Within a few minutes my mobile was throwing out replies! Each strand had votes. Watch this space to see what I decided.

Thee huge dark bead nucleated strands with metallic lustre

Thee huge dark bead nucleated strands with metallic lustre

 

Moving right along, How do 13mm and 14mm white metallic drops sound to you?

White metallic drops

White metallic drops

 

Finally I was given the first showing of some totally new pearls. They are small, 5mm to about 9mm, but with intense colours and mirror metallic lustre. Anyone have any idea what these little beauties are

Mystery new pearls

Mystery new pearls

I resisted the impulse to immediately buy every one and found nine pairs – mostly smaller sizes, for earrings and some singles which will be set onto rings. No-one yet has got what they are!

Being dutiful I tried to move on to black drops but when I spread them out  I glanced at the clock…nearly 6pm! No wonder I was all pearled out for the day!

More tomorrow

 

 

Michelle Keegan loves her Pearlescence anklet

It must be nearly two years ago now that we supplied a simple white pearl anklet to Michelle Keegan’s stylist for a photoshoot with a holiday look.

Michelle loved the anklet so of course we gave it to her. And if you want proof that she really does love the anklet here it is out in Dubai on the beach with her and her fiance Mark Wright this week

Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright

Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright

And later on the beach (photo from The Sun

michelle dubaiMichelle is leaving top UK soap Coronation Street in May. It was her enthusiasm for this anklet which triggered the making of the whole Beach Collection – which she named.

Beach Collection items are specifically designed to be all the jewellery you need to take on holiday. Either simple pearls or pearls on leather. And they look great on men or women.

added March 30…The anklet is still sending postcards – Today’s Star Sunday calls it ‘delicate’ !

Buy one like Michelle’s here

A Special Find….Lake Biwa Pearls

Lake Biwa near Kyoto in Japan was the home once of a thriving freshwater pearl industry.Nowadays the name is often slapped onto thin stick pearls (erroneously)

I have a regular customer/correspondant, Andrew. He teaches classes in Rasa Shastra -making medicines using, amongst other things, powdered pearls.  Which is where Pearlescence comes in, obviously. We supply him regularly with both pearl powder from drilling and whole pearls for crushing.

Now a week or so ago I got an excited email from Andrew while he was in Japan, up near Kyoto. Would I be interested in some pearls which apparently were genuine Lake Biwa pearls. Lake Biwa was the centre of the Japanese freshwater pearl industry almost 100  years ago but the farms closed as the lake got hopelessly polluted, too dirty for its own species of freshwater mussel to survive.

Andrew had found the proverbial little old shop which, in a dusty corner, had some pearls which were said to be genuine Biwas.

recently the term Biwa has been slapped onto stick pearls. Stick pearls were produced but mainly production was of small, lustrous freeform pearls. Now these pearls have a slighly silky lustre. Andrew could get no clear paperwork provenance, but these certainly don’t have the look of Chinese freshwaters or of European river pearls. Their lustre is noticeably silky and they have a very clean surface, albeit not particularly regular. Sizes range between 6mm (not many) down to 1mm. they’re white with a rainbow orient.

biwa pearls

Biwa pearls

Now please note I am not saying for certain that these are Biwa pearls, just that there is a strong likelihood.

(I’m not going to drill the 1mm ones either)

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.

 

On the Road to Hong Kong. The call of metallic pearls

I’m checked in, the lists have been printed and I’m just about ready for my flight to Hong Kong tomorrow.

The Hong Kong September gem show is the biggest trade jewellery show in the workl: 3,500 exhibitors and nearly 52,000 visitors last year. It’s so big that it is split into two shows – the first, at the exhibition centre near the airport which is on the mainland, is mostly components, gemstones and findings. There’s a whole hall full just with pearls.

hong kong gem show

trays and trays of pearls in the pearl hall – this is the view from about half way down one of perhaps 15 or more rows

Another sparkles with only diamonds, for example. There’s another with coloured gemstones. (I’ll be in there for a few hours too looking for some tourmalline and coloured diamond briolettes for Gemescence ) Then the whole focus shifts to Hong Kong Island and another exhibition centre has hall upon hall of finished jewellery. But I’m going to be travelling home before that starts.

I’ll be going to the show for the first couple of days only. By then I will have bought nearly everything on my shopping list by going around the wholesalers officers before those delicious metallic pearls ever pack up and go to the show.

bags of pearls

Huge bags of pearls on the shelves in one room of one wholesalers office.

The advantages of going early and going round the offices are that things are quieter so there is less pressure and dashing around and I can work steadily to select only the finest of the finest pearls for customers for the next few months – the best shaped, the most metallic – and also spend a little longer in discussing prices. I might select one or two strands only from each of those big bagsfull in the photo above, for example.

I’ll be looking for the finest metallic pearls in shapes from rounds to  – well splatts  is the best description I can come up with. Huge misshapes in natural colours.

huge pearl pendant

44mm by 24mm natural colours pendant

Were a big unexpected hit when I got a few last time. so I’ll be looking for more of the same.

There’s still time to put in a special request – use the contact form.

 

 

 

Michelle Keegan stays ‘Beachy’ in new Hello cover article

There’s an interview and some amazing Alan Strutt (@alanstrutt) photos of Michelle Keegan in this week’s Hello magazine..and in two of the photos Michelle is wearing her own Pearlescence white pearl anklet from the Beach Collection which she’s had for a year now! We’re so excited and flattered to see the photos – doesn’t she look stunning?

Michelle named the collection – perfect for hot summer days – after first wearing the anklet in a shoot. Her comment about how she loved it because it was so ‘beachy’ triggered a whole stream of design ideas for easy to wear, light, cool, summery pearl designs which became The Beach Collection –http://www.pearlescence.co.uk/index.php/cPath/225

Michelle Keegan

Michelle Keegan. Photo Hello Magazine /Alan Strutt

You can find exactly Michelle’s anklet here – http://www.pearlescence.co.uk/product_info.php/cPath/225_244/products_id/3755

It’s made from small elliptical or rice shaped pearls, drilled at one end so they sit higgle-de-piggle-dy on the stretch filament for a light and lacy look

There is a ‘backstage’ video of the shoot here http://uk.hellotv.com/watch/michelle_keegan/2610136974001

Look out for pearl glimpses plus the big crocodile clip holding the back of Michelle’s dress in place in a couple of shots!

 

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