February 1998

Gemstones & Pearls: Gemology


Huge demand for pearls has given new meaning to the phrase "the pearl of great price" - especially South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Here's what to show customers on a budget


South Sea white and Tahitian black pearls were in such demand in 1997 that some American dealers reported a 50% increase in sales this past holiday season over the same period of 1996.

But this and similar demand worldwide has made gem and fine qualities harder to come by. When a jeweler can't find - or a customer can't afford - the very best, Armand Asher of New York dealer Albert Asher & Co. suggests compromises:


  • Go for graduated. The "straighter" the strand is required to be - ranging only from 11mm to 12mm, for instance - the harder it is to match pearls from limited stock. Recommend that the customer accept a wider range - 9mm to 14mm, for example.
  • Learn to love colors. The green-black ("peacock") and pink-black colors in Tahitian pearls and white to silver-white colors in South Sea pearls are still the most popular and, therefore, more costly and harder to find. Accept a more silver-gray color for black pearls or off-white for South Sea pearls.
  • Shape up. Suggest off-round pearls. Unless they're looking for something truly unique, however, most customers don't like the drastic look of baroque shapes.
  • Seek surface cleanliness. Luster and lack of blemishes and pock marks are essential. Unless demanded by the customer's budget, Asher rarely likes to compromise the beauty of the pearl's surface.


- by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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