A friend who is on her way to a cruise in the South Pacific called me
to ask if I wanted her to buy me pearls while she was there. My
instinct tells me several things. One is that all of those real south
sea pearls are incredibly expensive, even if you are at the source.
The second, is that if you don’t know what you are doing, you could
spend a great deal of money for second rate pearls. I know that one
of their stops is Taheeti, also Bora Bora. Does anyone know of a good
dealer down there? Any and all advice welcome. Thanks, Betty (In
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania where at 6am the sun is out and
spring is finally here)
A friend who is on her way to a cruise in the South Pacific called me
Hi Betty, I would suggest you buy your South seas pearls from a dealer
here in the states. From what I have seen the pearls people are coming
back with from the South Pacific have not been bought at better prices
than I can buy them from dealers in New York or California. I once
went to Rio thinking I could buy tourmaline better there, Not true. I
have found no place better than the Tucson Gem Show to buy gems.
Everyone is there competing head to head. They all sharpen their
pencils for that event. Thanks, Etienne Perret Designing Colored
Diamond Jewels www.etienneperret.com @etienne_perret 20 Main St
Camden, Maine USA 04843 tel.+207.236.9696
Dear Metalweaver, We were in Tahiti many years ago (about 20) and
found a man/jeweler on Moorea, but only by asking all over the place;
everyone knew him but couldn’t tell us exactly how to get to his
home, or a number to call. This is not much help, but I remember
going to his home/studio in which a lot of his jewelry-work was
displayed. It was beautiful! We wound around on a road near the
mangrove on the more populated end of the island, near the airport.
I bought one black pearl (he specialized in them) for about $50.00
US. Fortunately we were with another couple, one of them fluent in
French which helps in French Polynesia!
So set a budget, have her ask around and be ready to hear about the
great experience she had looking for your pearl(s). I would suggest
not buying them at any hotels/or onboard the ship. Hopefully she
won’t miss the boat! Tell her not to waste her time at the Gaugin
museum on the island of Tahiti. . .all reproductions!!! Try to get
to the open-air market in Papeete, and chow-down on the great French
bread delivered by bicycle on Bora-Bora. My husband and the other
guy had fun renting and riding bikes around the whole island of Bora
Bora each day. They were ready for those great French lunches by the
time they got back.
I think I’ve talked myself into getting back there!
Interesting question regarding pearls, south sea or otherwise. I
just returned from Beijing, China and bought a bunch of pearls from a
reputable dealer that my friend has been dealing with. Mind you we
are not big time buyers or sellers but I purchased pearls, loose and
strung – double knotted with 14 k clasp – for not a lot of money.
I will be using some of the loose pearls in my pieces, using some of
the strung ones to sell with my enhancers that I make and will give
some of the really inexpensive ones away as gifts. The problem I had
was with communication. I know that most of the pearls I bought were
fresh water (not the rice type ones) – they were fairly round and
the more I paid the better the roundness and luster was. I also
bought some sea pearls. They were much more expensive (but cheap
compared to what I have seen in the states) very round and had
beautiful luster to them. I know that these are not South Sea Pearls
because from what I am reading if they were they would be very
expensive (I paid about $65 for a 7 mm double knot strand with 14k
clasp.) All I could understand from the dealer is that they are salt
water not fresh water, have a better luster and are nice and round,
which they were compared to the fresh water ones I bought. I also
know that all of the pearls I bought were real because the dealer
scraped some with a blade in front of me so I could see that they
were not painted pearl color. I just am not sure what the difference
fresh, salt and south sea pearls are. I called a few reputable
jewelers and they could not help. I just gather that there are so
many types of pearls out there that some are better than others.
Right now for my budget and eye what I bought is fine as my
customers nor I am ready to spend a small fortune for high end
Etienne is right on this. Also, buying mounted gold jewelry in
Tahiti is not really economical, given that there is a high import
duty for gold. I find that the best reason for buying Tahitian pearls
in Tahiti is for sentimental value.
I also bought some sea pearls. They were much more expensive, very round and had beautiful luster to them. I know that these are not South Sea Pearls because from what I am reading if they were they would be very expensive (I paid about $65 for a 7 mm double knot strand with 14k clasp.) I just am not sure what the difference fresh, salt and south sea pearls are.
Dear Elle, Basically there are two types of cultured pearls: fresh
water pearls and sea pearls (a.k.a. salt water pearls). If they were
truly sea pearls, then the strand you bought was most likely Japanese
Akoya pearls. Akoyas have traditionally been the cream of the crop
where smaller pearls are concerned. For the last few years, however,
the Akoya oysters, in which these pearls are grown, have been in
trouble � reputedly due to pollution of the Japanese waters where
At the same time that Akoya production has been on the wane, the
Chinese have been developing new techniques for the production of
rounder and more lustrous fresh water pearls � and in great quantities
� which are now competing successfully with the higher priced Akoyas
in the marketplace.
In addition, Chinese pearls are beginning to compete with South Sea
pearls because of the large sizes and variety of colors in which
they’re grown. South Sea pearls are salt water pearls that are
typically quite large (10mm and up) because of the kind of oyster in
which they’re cultured, an oyster that grows in south sea regions such
as off the northern coast of Australia. Conditions there are difficult
to control at best, making production undependable and accounting in
part for the high price.
South Sea pearl colors usually range from white to gold. Tahitian
pearls, on the other hand, which are sea pearls cultured in the
black-lipped oyster, are generally large, black, grey or silver pearls
which often have overtones of green, blue and pink.
I just gather that there are so many types of pearls out there that some are better than others.
There definitely are many different kinds of pearls out there and
these are just a few. Quality, however, is not merely a function of
pearl origin, although that certainly does affect price. In general,
the most valuable pearl is large, perfectly round, without blemishes
and, perhaps most importantly, of very high luster. If it meets all
of these criteria and is from the South Seas, as opposed to the fresh
waters of China, it’s going to cost a lot more, but it won’t
necessarily be a prettier pearl. As for me, I’ll take an interesting,
high luster, baroque cultured pearl or a natural Mississippi River
wing pearl over a round South Sea pearl any day!
More on the South Seas Pearl debate. There are now beautiful pearl
imitations that closely resemble South Seas Pearls. They come in all
color variations black, white, blue, cream, golden etc, as well as
mixed color, where you will get 6 or 10 colors in one strand. They
come from China and supposedly have a Mother of Pearl bead at their
center. They look and feel very much like the real thing until you rub
them across your teeth or scratch the nacre. Then you will find out it
is just a layer of covering over a core bead. Ipaid about $30 a
strand for 10-14mm strands at the Tucson Gem Show. I use them for
photography and display purposes. Sure beats the $6000 to $10,000 a
strand that I pay for the real ones I use in my creations. Thanks,
Etienne Perret Designing Colored Diamond Jewels www.etienneperret.com
@etienne_perret 20 Main St Camden, Maine USA 04843
I know not everyone will agree with me, but I have found some of my
best deals on ss pearls at the Tucson show. For single undrilled in
10 - 15 mm – check the trays snd bowls on the front of the tables
and always ask to see “more of these” usually in the $ 25-50 range.
Also the price is always a little flexible. I didn’t see the
original question, so this may have nothing to do with it. But, it’s
my 2 cents worth. Strands are also available, but you have to really
dig the good deals out of the dealers. Again sift through as much of
their stock as possible without frustrating them (it helps to be
personable). And buy something if you really take up to much of their
time (also it will help you know their stock, if you want to buy via
mail during the year). Blah, blah, blah about things off the subject.
Sorry - - - - Marty