By the way (and you may not want to hear this), I can buy an 18"
hank of beautiful 8.5 millimeter pearls, allready strung and
knotted except for tying off the ends with French wire and adding a
clasp, for, get this, $139. They're Chinese, not perfectly round,
but close enough that it takes a pretty good eye to tell. Nice
thick nacre and good luster and color. I believe these are from
Akoya oysters. Remember what a strand like that used to cost 20
years ago? Like $1200.
I mainly use Australian South Sea pearls, and have some contacts in
West Australia who are just beginning to have success with
cultivating Akoya pearls off our coast. I understand they are quite
tricky and demanding to farm.
I’m no expert, but I wasn’t aware that the Chinese cultivate Akoya,
the original pearls cultivated be Mr Mikimoto himself. and at that
price, I suspect they are freshwater pearls. Any pearl experts out
there like to comment?
If one assumes keystone, I have a hard time imagining the public
swallowing $72 for a simple restring.
As David Geller has told us on more than one occasion, public
acceptance of repair prices tends to be trust driven, not price
driven. If the strand of pearls is important to the owner, they will
first off, want it done correctly. While a price they cannot afford
might be a problem, I’ve generally been surprised at just how high a
price people can be willing to pay once they’re assured that they can
trust that their job will be done right, and their piece cared for
properly. Sometimes, a client will need a bit of explanation as to
just what goes into the job, so they have an idea of how much time,
and how much expertise and skill is required. We all know how much
lawyers, plumbers, and other professionals can charge per hour, so
with a little education, people can accept that a trained quality
jeweler’s time should also not be too cheap. Now, if only we
goldsmiths could get the employers of goldsmiths to accept that same
And for the record, from what I’ve seen, most of the time, customers
don’t even blink at 70 or 100 something for a quality restringing
job, knotted, on silk, etc… The last time they got brake pads
changed on their car, it took an hour, and cost a lot more than that
for what they might perceive as simply attaching bolt on parts.
Understanding that quality stringing takes equal or greater skill is
not a great leap.
Knots between pearls serve two needs that become obvious when you’ve
worn or worked with pearls long enough.
First, if you break a knotted strand, no more than one or two pearls
actually flies off loose, so you don’t end up loosing a bunch of
costly matched pearls.
More importantly, though, pearls are soft. Without knots, on a
strand they’ll rub together, creating significant worn spots around
the holes where they abrade each other. Knots prevent that damage.
Plus, perhaps the little space between each pearl made by a little
white knot ends up making the whole strand look a bit more delicate.
With some pearls, the knots just look better than unknotted strands.
But that’s a matter of opinion, of course.
I would add to what Dave has written about protecting the surface of
the pearl and the security of the necklace.
Japanese Akoya pearls are sold wholesale on temporary strands with
0.5mm graduation, for example, 6-6.5mm. The pearls are 6mm at the
clasp ends, graduating to 6.5mm in the center. They are also matched
for color, luster, overtone, etc. It takes years to master the art
of matching for necklace graduation in Japan so that pearls match
their neighbors. It is important to keep the order the same when
If the silk breaks (and everything breaks down, as anyone who has
composted knows), it’s a simple thing to recover 1 pearl and know
its place in the line-up of the necklace.
This process of matching color & graduating size is true of South
Sea & Tahitian pearls as well as some better Chinese freshwater
pearls, (although Chinese saltwater pearl production has decreased
in recent years).
As for stringing prices, here in the Northeast where I’ve been
stringing for 25 years, easily 15 years ago retail stores were
charging $75.00 for an 18-inch knotted necklace with French wire at
I object to you using the word "simple" to restring pearls.
Simple…as in a single strand, with no regrading, with no mystery
clasps, not a bib, not a seven row bracelet with 3 separators and a
bayonet clasp. My use of the word is legit, in the range of
complexities a strand is simple. But apparently some don’t find it
simple. But should the client pay heavily for someone’s lack of
expertise? I’ve seen strands take as little as 10 minutes.
But let’s get back into context. The prospective client is an online
seller not a storefront jeweler who finds it easier to job locally
than deal with the hassle of numerous risky shipments. What volume
are we talking about? two strands a week, two hundred? Split it down
the middle and at $36/strand that’s $3,600 a week.
Am I the only one who finds that totally implausible?
Ultimately the proof is in the pudding. Insist on $36, see if the
account is landed. It might be ditched as soon as someone cheaper
comes along. Which surely they will.
My Mother in law paid $110. to have her pearls restrung 30 years
What makes you think that was an honest price? 30 years ago for 110
bucks you could have had a precariously flawed 2 ct emerald set, 5
rings sized, or eleven chains soldered (retail). Yeah, come to think
of it, that’s the same thing.
It’s a misconception that Mikimoto invented the culturing of pearls.
He was preceeded by at least two others, and it was THEIR patent that
was accepted. Mikimoto’s only method was not commercially viable and
was never used.
However, it was Mikimto’s marketing genius that made the cultured
pearl a success. That’s where he made his money, as a promoter.
The Chinese have been successfully culturing saltwater pearls for
some time now. Production has decreased over the last few years.
These pearls are not technically Akoya, which refers only to the
Japanese saltwater cultured pearls, the name coming from Ago Bay
(Ago-ya, Akoya…). Distinctions can blur: some of the largest
purchasers of the better Chinese saltwater cultured pearls (CSCP) are
Japanese pearl houses.
We have found, too, that by the time CSCP are purchased and
dispersed into foreign markets, the Chinese designation vanishes.
Jewelry retailers and consumers are allowed to assume Japanese
origin. The Chinese who are still growing saltwater pearls also sell
the nucleated young to Japanese farms for finishing and some Chinese
send harvested pearls there as well, for cleaning, bleaching, dyeing
as needed. The Chinese and their Japanese counterparts have sold spat
(baby oysters) back and forth. You can see how distinctions can blur,
or be made to.
In general, the better Japanese SCP are superior to the better CSCP.
Neither is producing much small material (2-4mm). The Chinese have
not been successful in producing large, fine SCP, either. Sizes of
8mm and over are scarce. Warmer Chinese waters shorten the growth
period, but seem to produce inferior nacre to the colder Japanese
Your 8-8.5mm off-round pearls sound like they are probably
freshwater cultured, which can readily be purchased inexpensively,
especially if off-round.
Any recommendations as to a good souce to purchase unstrung, bulk
I am seeking inexpensive, yet good quality champagne color pearls -
all sizes - large, small, and different shapes.
As to the issue of knotting - the knotting of pearls is a skill that
requires time and talent. Perrhaps one should charge for their time -
whether they are knotting pearls or closing bezels?? Perhaps an
hourly fee of $30 - $50.00 which is added to the cost for supplies,
equipment, etc. Perhaps you need to employ someone to spend their
time knotting the pearls… would you then charge for your time plus
the cost for health insurance, workmen’s compensation, unemployment
insurance and on and on? The cost for your time does not go up or
down based on quantity - time is what it is.
For knotted Japanese Akoya pearl attaching to a clasp by French wire,
I use while silk D or E most often. For Tahitian and South Sea Pearls
& French wire, I like F or FF. For Chinese freshwater pearls & French
wire, I use C or D.