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Pearl source


#1

I have an excellent pearl source. The name of the company is
Oak Park Wholesale. The owner is Amy Moy. Her selection of pearls
and customer service are unsurpassed. I encourage everyone (with
proper business ownership credentials) to contact her for their
pearl needs.

Oak Park Wholesale, Amy Moy
5 N. Wabash Ave., Suite 101
Chicago, IL  60602, USA
1-800-257-5274
1-312-629-8521
1-312-629-8522  fax

-Elaine
Chicago, IL, USA, Midwest


#2

Hello all, I’m wanting to do a cultured pearl strand, 16" long for my
grown daughter, and have been pricing 5-5.5mm good quality pearls.
Are these prices for real??? Checked Stullers and Rio. I was
wanting to keep the price around $200, but it appears that’ll be
inadequate. My dealing with cultured pearls has been limited to
restringing and knotting clients’ pearls. I’ve bought only FWPs, so
sticker shock is very real on cultured pearls.

Does anyone out there have a trusted source for cultured pearls that
might offer a more reasonable price? Thanks in advance.

Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681


#3

Judy in Kansas, Sorry but nice cultured pearls are going to go for a
lot more than $200. You might be able to get some junk for that price
but the price of Japanese rounds has gone up dramatically due to
production problems. You might try looking at some of the Chinese
freshwater rounds that are available now. The luster isn’t as nice but
they can be quite pretty.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
@spirersomes
http://www.spirersomes.com


#4

Dear Judy, At the risk of beating a poor “war horse” to death I can’t
help responding to your query ! Nuts to cultured pearls !!! They have
always been a rip off. Furthermore, why would anyone ignore the fact
that they are essentially a manufactured product in that they depend
on a man made nucleus in order to achieve their shape ? And then, of
course, they really aren’t much pearl at all…the nacre layer is
ridiculously thin and it soon wears off with frequent use. Freshwater
pearls are approximately sixty five percent nacre and will out wear
cultured pearls every time. The cultured pearl industry has been a
cartel for many decades. Recently, however, the culturing of pearls
by nucleation with shell spheres has broken out of the grip of the
Japanese and they are being produced elsewhere…good luck! I really
don’t think that cultured pearls will ever again compete in a market
where the freshwaters are so cheap and, in many ways, so superior.

It should be borne in mind that all pearls are sold by grade and size
and that the best grades command substantially greater prices. It is
very foolish to buy any but the top grades when buying freshwater
pearls when you consider how much less they cost than even the lower
grades of cultured pearls. It is amazing to me that the Chinese have
been able to continuously produce higher and higher grades of
freshwaters while keeping the prices so low ,inspite of constantly
escalating demand. I wish we, in the western world, could make the
same claim ! It seems that we are committed to producing ever more
shoddy goods at higher and higher prices. Hats off to the Chinese !

Ron at Mills Gem Company, Los Osos, CA.


#5
Freshwater pearls are approximately sixty five percent nacre and
will out wear cultured pearls every time. 

I agree, but did anyone notice the high increase in the price of
freshwater pearls at Tucson this year? I have been buying nice FWP for
years and this year the price was very high. And it wasn’t just one
dealer either. For what I used to pay $10-15 they now wanted $35-45.
And I’m talking discounted prices for buying whole hanks, too. One
dealer friend said the prices were going to remain high and that the
public had better get used to it. What’s going on???

Carol


#6

Note: I am only referring to Tahitian pearls in this post because
these are the pearls I am most familiar with right now. Full
disclosuRe: I do some work for Tahiti Perles. I post to Orchid from
my personal address.

Ron, I’m guessing you’re basing the spherical shape of pearls on the
spherical shape of the nucleus, and you’re correct, as far as that
goes. But at least in Tahitians, that round nucleus also is the basis
of pear shaped, oval, button, baroque, etc. shaped pearls as well.

Believe me, if they were really “manufactured”, there wouldn’t be many
odd shaped/irregular pearls coming out of oysters. Don’t mistake the
human intervention for a process like Majorica pearls.

 And then, of course, they really aren't much pearl at all....the
nacre layer is ridiculously thin and it soon wears off with frequent
use.\ 

In a poor quality cultured pearl, yes. Good quality Tahitians have
nacre from 2-5mm. It’s important for buyers to look at luster and
other quality factors and assess nacre thickness. Cheap, chalky
pearls will of course be poor value.

Freshwater pearls are approximately sixty five percent nacre and
will out wear cultured pearls every time. The cultured pearl
industry has been a cartel for many decades. Recently, however, the
culturing of pearls by nucleation with shell spheres has broken out
of the grip of the Japanese and they are being produced
elsewhere....good luck! I really don't think that cultured pearls
will ever again compete in a market where the freshwaters are so
cheap and, in many ways, so superior.   

If by this you mean that freshwater pearls will gain popularity, and
take up a niche once occupied solely by saltwater pearls, you may be
right. But I don’t see why you feel a need to tout freshwaters by
acting as though all saltwater pearls are the same. If you mean
cheap, thin-nacre Akoyas, maybe you should say so?

Kat Tanaka –


#7

Daniel, You recommended that Judy in Kansas consider looking at
Chinese freshwater rounds, but, you also stated, rather
categorically, that they wouldn’t have as good a luster. I am puzzled
by your statement…what scientific method are you employing to
measure pearl luster ? I am unaware of any quantitative method of
measuring luster nor am I aware of any grading system that exactly
quantifies and/or grades luster. I suppose that one could , to a
limited degree, employ a reflectometer, but it seems to me that
reflectivity is essentially a measurement based on surficial
responses. Nonetheless, I frankly do not perceive there to be any
difference between freshwater and cultured pearls. Their luster does
vary , in each case, between wide extremes and one can be as bad or
as good as the other depending on the grading system employed and the
perceptions of the grader. Personally, I am of the opinion that the
better grades of freshwater pearls compare equally to the better
grades of cultured pearls and, when you consider the fact that
freshwater pearls are REAL pearl all the way through and…when you
consider the fact that they are drastically less costly, there is
really no contest. You might contend that the cultured pearls are
superior on the basis of their being more perfectly spherical…and
yet, who would argue with the fact that this symmetry is artificially
induced by a nucleus of mundane machine processed Missisippi River
Mussel shell ? Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.


#8

Dear Kat, My comments on cultured pearls were basically confined to a
comparison of freshwaters from China vs. saltwater cultured pearls
from Japan. Nonetheless, while I certainly agree with your assertion
that Tahitian cultured saltwater pearls are a fine product, it is
highly likely that they will come under pressure from the Chinese
product for several reasons. One is the fact that the freshwater
mollusc is infinitely more productive. Another is the fact that the
Chinese industry is a relatively important source of foreign hard
currencies and, as such, enjoys the blessings of the government. A
third consideration is the fact that it is much easier to maintain
aquaculture in a land based situation than it is in a maritime
environment. And, finally, the Chinese have been very energetic and
inventive about diversifying and improving their product. I do
believe that , given enough time, they will eventually produce a
product that resembles the Tahitian product. When you really
concentrate on trying to put the gem industry into proper
perspective, it is inevitable that you recognize the dichotomy that
is evolving. In the earliest times gems were anomalous objects which
popped up in our natural environment and caught the fancy of the
discoverer.In most cases they were things that had the unusual
properties of sparkle or color or shape or any combination thereof.
They came to be used in ceremonial ways and began to accumulate a
lore and were, in many cases, associated with supernatural
attributes. Later they came to be associated with social status or
wealth. In other cases, they became symbols associated with social
and familial realtionships. Eventually, the fact that the demand for
these items started exceeding the supply, caught the attention of the
entrepreneurs and thay began to fan the flames with promotions,
substitutes and new applications. As modern technology evolved, more
and more ways of either replicating, enhancing or substituting gems
became prevalent. It is only logical that eventually natural gems
will become a thing of the past. The pearl is a prime example of what
I have been talking about. It really wasn’t that long ago that pearls
were, quite simply, the product of certain oysters in isolated areas
of our coastlines throughout the world. That industry has declined
into oblivion simply because the stock of oysters has been depleted,
the ocean’s waters have become polluted and…the public came to be
satisfied with a product which was part artificial and part man
made…essentially an artificial process. If you accept the facts
that gemstones are a non-renewable resource and, that pollution of
the ocean is not something that can be readily reversed, and that
human pressures on the environment will proliferate and that demand
for gemstones will at least remain constant, it is inevitable that
synthetic gemstones will continue to make inroads in the industry.
Frankly, it is highly likely that one day natural gemstones will be
historical curiosities confined mainly to museums and private
collections. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.


#9

Ah Ron, You always read more into my statements than I have said.
From the thousands of strands of pearls that I have seen over the
years in my shop and in Tucson, it is my humble opinion that, at this
point in time, the round Chinese freshwater pearls do not have as high
a luster as their Japanese high end equivalents. I have however noted
that most other shapes of freshwaters do have a significantly higher
luster than the cultured pearls do. Ron, my freshwater pearl sales
outnumber my Japanese cultured pearl sales 100:1. I have used
freshwater pearls in my jewelry for 25 years. The bulk of the Japanese
cultured pearls that I sell are baroque. The issue is that they are
different. They each have something to offer. In terms of value, if
we continue to believe that rarity is one of the main factors of
value, then the Japanese cultured pearls of quality should be priced
much higher than the freshwaters as there are so few of them being
produced. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts
Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 @spirersomes


#10

Ron,

    My comments on cultured pearls were basically confined to a
comparison of freshwaters from China vs. saltwater cultured pearls
from Japan. 

Thank you for your clarification. As we all know, saltwater cultured
pearls no longer are synonymous with Japanese Akoyas, in a time when
white South Seas and black Tahitians are gaining in popularity.

    Nonetheless, while I certainly agree with your assertion that
Tahitian cultured saltwater pearls are a fine product, it is highly
likely that they will come under pressure from the Chinese product
for several reasons. [...] believe that , given enough time, they
will eventually produce a product that resembles the Tahitian
product. 

While we’ve seen enormous gains in the quality of Chinese product,
until such a time that we see Chinese product achieve an equality
with the best Tahitian product, I think sweeping claims are
premature. Many products attempt to give the look of Tahitian pearls,
but while they can mimic average to low-end goods, the best, most
lustrous and spectacularly natural colored Tahitians remain unique.

In pointing out that synthetics and treated goods are becoming more
accepted in the market, I believe you are also disregarding the fact
that despite the presence of, say, good looking synthetic turquoise,
the public still craves naturally mined goods, and the top segment of
the market has always demanded the real thing even as cheaper
imitations have made the semblance of those things accessible to the
masses. Created turquoise, opal, and lapis haven’t taken over the
market, nor had Majorica pearls or flame fusion sapphire…or plastic
and glass, for that matter. These products have their place, and
their natural counterparts have another niche.

Contrary to your claims, unless the seas become polluted on a global
scale, Tahitian perliculture is not in danger. There are benefits to
isolated atoll environments.

I understand the Chinese government’s zeal for Chinese pearls.
Governments all over Polynesia feel similarly about black pearl farms.
I’m not sure I understand the source of your missionary zeal for
Chinese product.

Regards,
Kat Tanaka


#11

Daniel,

Thanks for clarifying your position on pearls. I had gotten the
impression that you were very partial to Japanese cultured pearls and
now I see that you actually take the position that some of the
Chinese freshwaters have better luster than their Japanese
equivalents.

As for your position that Japanese cultured rounds should be more
costly because they are limited in production and are, therefore,
more rare, I would have to take some exception. My position has been
, all along , that Freshwater pearls have been a better value
inasmuch as they are essentially solid pearl and represent less human
involvement. The fact that the cost of producing them is high does
not make them automatically worth more and it is highly likely that
the industry will fall by the wayside as the Chinese continue to make
inroads.

We no longer take cultured saltwater pearls in as estate jewelry
because the demand has virtually disappeared. It is unfortunate that
people have difficulty disposing of them but, what the heck, nothing
lasts forever !
Ron at Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, CA.


#12

Dear Judy, The difference in price between fresh and salt water pearls
is because of the difference in the way they are produced. Saltwater
Akoya oysters are usually only capable of producing one pearl per
oyster as freshwater mussels can produce as many as 35 per mussel.
There are many many other differences of course, labor, time,
harvest, nucleus, etc., but the main thing to remember when
purchasing saltwater pearls is quality. Attempts to shorten the
length of time required inside the oyster has resulted in less than
acceptable product. If I were to purchase saltwaters, I would be
looking for luster (of course), coloration (rose’ overtones preferred
in USA), and most importantly the THICKNESS of the nacreous coating.
Remember that “salts” are basically a mother-of-pearl bead inserted
into the oyster and allowed to be coated for a period of approx.
three years. This is important because this will greatly determine
the quality of the end result pearl. You can get less expensive
saltwater pearls, but be warned that you may get lesser quality also.
Since you will be laying out sustantial dollars for these pearls, it
may be prudent to put a little more to it and get good quality. Good
Luck, Suzanne


#13

Dear Kat,

I am afraid that you have gotten the impression that I have a vested
interest in Chinese freshwater pearls…nothing could be farther
from the truth! I don’t have a vested interest in any gemstone
commodity,but I do have a commitment to seeking the truth and to
foreseeing the future. I have been around long enough to have had
substantial perspective into what has happened in the industry
and,accordingly, have observed some well defined trends. If you don’t
agree with me, it is of no consequence…we all see things
differently, based on personal experience and perceptions.

As for your contention that environmental forces are of no concern to
the Tahitian Pearl fisheries, I am afraid that you are dangerously
disregarding the global implications of pollution. Everything that
man does eventually impacts the global environment. We are flirting
with disaster with the atmosphere and there is good evidence to
suggest that climate change is upon us. If you think that Tahiti is
not affected by atmospheric pollution you are likely very wrong. We
here in California have one of the most beautiful Alpine lakes in the
world. Lake Tahoe used to have such clear water that you could see a
fish swimming 120 feet down in the depths. This clarity has been
steadily diminishing so that now the clarity is but a third of its
former level. The latest theory as to the principal source of
pollution is excess atmospheric nitrogen coming from automobile
emissions of vehicles in the San Francisco bay area two hundred miles
to the west ! The ocean is very similar to the atmosphere except that
the overall circulation is more sluggish. Ultimately, it does,
however, transport pollutants throughout the oceans and, of course,
the pollutants which fall from the atmosphere affect the oceans
constantly throughout the world.

One of the biggest weaknesses in human nature is that people like to
believe that “it can’t happen here” or that “it was always thus and
therefore always will be” Tell that to the Romans, or the Easter
Islanders, or the Incas. These civilizations failed because they
didn’t heed the warnings that were present !

You also took issue with my contention that the use of natural gems
is waning and that natural gems may one day be a thing of the past.
On the other hand, you cited the example of Turquoise prevailing over
its imitants as being a case in point. I’m afraid that this was a bad
example inasmuch as unadulterated Turquoise as used in most
Southwestern American jewelry is essentially a thing of the past. The
stuff that you see in nearly every Southwestern gallery is
essentially chalky Turquoise waste product which has been pressure
injected with dyes and resins. Nonetheless, people pay big bucks for
it and seldom know that they are paying for something that is phony
and cheap…( the stones, that is…) Even the prodigious output of
the Hubei mines in China is treated with parafin.

Your contention that sophisticated people will always demand the
finest natural gems and that only the “masses” will tolerate the
phonies is , perhaps, going a bit too far. The time is nigh when
discerning between real and synthetic will no longer be feasible, if,
indeed, even relevant. It is now quite feasible to synthesize natural
aberrations so that differentiation is virtually impossible or, at
the very least, economically unfeasible. Happy crafting ! Ron at
Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.


#14

I agree with Ron about what man has done to nature. Look at the
pearling industry in Bahrain, it has totally collapse since the 1950s
due to introduction of cultured pearl. To help with the pearling
industry to recover, the government of Bahrain introduced a law which
ban the import and sale of cultured pearl in Bahrain. The only
country in the world that protect natural natural pearl. From the
book “Treasure of Bahrain”.

Singapore - a garden city of the east.


#15

Kit, You are very right on with reference to “natural” vs synthetic.
There will always be a good market for the real thing. Yes people with
good taste and a thin wallet should also be able to enjoy well designed
jewelry, hence the market for look alikes or synthetic.

Today I was at the Luiseno Pow Wow at Mission San Luis Rey. I was
wearing a seven strand Santo Domingo Natural Turquoise Heishi I bought
many years ago. Many Native Americans came to look at it and comment
about the “Treasure” I had bought myself those many years ago.

Quality always shows. Value increases. I love my necklace and yes I do
treasure it. Teresa


#16

There are several good articles on PEARLS in the national Geographic
magazine

1. June 1997 Black Pearls  (Tahitian)
2. December 1991 Australia's Magnificient Pearls

3. I couldn't find this one but I distinctly remember an article and

video on fresh water pearls (USA south states and Chinese). One
interesting description was how Chinese clams have been induced to
form nacre around a seed of a Buddah figure for making pendants.
Tacky looking but an interesting technique.

While searching my NG collection I found articles on

4. October 1991  Rubies and Sapphires
5. July 1990  The Timeless Mystique of Emeralds
6. September 1987  JADE Stone of Heaven

I am sure if I do a more thorough search there will be more articles
relevant to this group.

The NG articles are all beautifully illustrated and contain original
rarely found in other publication. Perhaps as Jewelers
the Orchid members should make copies of the articles and place them
in file. Colour printers or photocopies are cheap enough to make
colour copies. I have been lurking in this group long enough to
notice that these subjects (gem sources and the working of gems) come
around often and the same misor lack thereof gets
repeated, answers for which have already been clearly addressed in
the NG articles.

    Your contention that sophisticated people will always demand
the finest natural gems and that only the "masses" will tolerate the
phonies is , perhaps, going a bit too far. The time is nigh when
discerning between real and synthetic will no longer be feasible,
if, indeed, even relevant. It is now quite feasible to synthesize
natural  aberrations so that differentiation is virtually
impossible or, at the very least, economically unfeasible.

I do not work on and know very little about jewelry. But I am a
gadgets guy. Would a hand held battery powered flashlight sized
device- with a UV light source, a laser light*, a halogen light
source to shine through the gem and a nested bank of light filters
for colour, polarized light, a diffraction grating and possibly some
things I haven’t thought of - be a useful tool for a preliminary test
of authenticity. This should eliminate the obvious synthetics or
imitations. For the more expensive gems tests by a certified
gemnologist would be prudent.

*Red lasers, the type used as pointers - Warning, do not look into
the light. The scattering or diffraction of the laser beam passing
through the gemstone should provide some interesting data.

I did some quick tests. A real diamond reflects the laser beam as
multiple focussed points of light, very much like that of the
nightclub mirror ball. Crystal glass lets most of the beam through
with some dispersion and attenuation. Jade lets through the laser, a
dark green portion more easily with less dispersion than the lighter
portions. On another piece of jade the whole piece (a flat ring) the
light scatters evenly throughout the stone, letting little through.
Tests on a quartz capped black opal ring, various small sapphires and
rubies, “jade” were inconclusive but given their under $100 prices
these were bought for their looks not for the value of their stones.

With UV light, stuff that gave a positive were microscopic inclusions
in jade, the jade itself nothing. Tiny rubies on a necklace glowed
red while similar “rubies” in a Siamese Princess ring remained dark.
The black opal glowed blue as did animal ivory and horn.

Kelvin Mok


#17

Unfortunately in today’s marketplace there are many synthetics and
imitations that are not quite this easy to discern. The actual value
of the stone is not the issue either. A jeweler can get sued for a
substantial amount of money for misrepresenting any kind or value of
gemstone. While some of the light sources you mentioned (UV,
polarizing light) may be helpful in identification of gem materials,
you still need some more gemological equipment (i.e. microscope,
refractometer) to truly begin to differentiate between natural and
synthetic. Unfortunately, even these are not enough to guarantee id
any more.


#18

Tay Thye Sun, As far as the situation in Bahrain is concerned, I think
that you will find that by 1950, there were other issues that were
more directly related to the collapse of the pearl fishing industry,
including overfishing and pollution from petroleum drilling.

Teresa Masters, I completely agree about the use of synthetics/
enhanced to please the pocketbook, by the way. I quite enjoy my
costume jewelry, and can easily envision using Chatham or J&O material
in a design, so long as it is clear to the buyer that the material is
synthetic.

also, a side note to Kelvin Mok: The pearl-covered Buddha technique is
actually quite old, and is the original inspiration for the technique
of pearl culturing used today.

Interested people might wish to visit http://www.pearlmuseum.org (the
online site for the Robert Wan Pearl Museum, a project of the Wan
family who started Tahiti Perles.)

Kat Tanaka


#19

Hello Mills Gems;

I agree 200% with your estatement that lots of people amongst us
don’t see the real facts of the polution of our planet and I’m not
even talking about the air contamination,the forrest cuttings and
light pollution !

As I love documentary films from “National Geografics”,I look at them
as much as I can.Lately they showed a documentary about gletchers and
how they affected our environment.I couldn’t believe that some people
went to the place in order to cut pieces of ice out of the glaciers
with chainsaws, in order to sell this highly pur ice,based on 100%
sweet water without any tracks of contamination.The purpose of this
ice is … having pure water for the manufacturing of whisky
!!!

If our waters aren’t that polluted, then why do they have to go that
far to find the pure water.If they can raise a bussines by making
this trip to the polars and get payed on top of it,then my question
is " HOWMUCH MORE DOES IT NEED TO OPEN PEOPLE EYES FOR THE CONDITION
OF OUR PLANET"??? Everybody knows howmuch water whe have on this
planet and … of howmuch water we already contaminated by our
unscrubiles behavings.

I know that I’m a part of this but I try wath I can within my limits
to add very small addition to delay this going-on disaster.I’m aware
of the fact that lots of fellow jewellers thinking the way we’re
thinking and for this (!!!),I’m very glad of beeing a part of this
wonderful group,but I would like to see another person more facing up
against the true story of our green earth.

I’m sorry that I used this forum for a subject which doesn’t fit
totally into the picture of this forum,but I really would like to
thank all the people who made their contribution -how small it might
be- to use their knowledge to save whatever can be saved.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

Regards Pedro
Palonso@t-online.de


#20

Hello Pedro and all, I’ve posted before about my emphasis that folks
use the least hazardous alternative possible when selecting chemicals
and processes and when venting fumes from their studio. Therefore, I
say RIGHT ON to your comments. If everyone makes a little effort,
the effect will be greatly magnified and can make a difference. Judy
in Kansas, who is off the soap box now

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681