Pearls:The New Colored Gems

September 1998


Pearls The New Colored Gems

White always sells. Black has built a permanent base of popularity. Now customers can show their affinity for cultured pearls in a whole rainbow of colors

Cultured pearl experts scratched their heads through most of the early 1990s because of flat sales of pearls in jewelry stores. Was it lack of product knowledge and sales training? Or were pearls just suffering the downside of their traditional in/out of fashion cycle, as Devin Macnow, director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center, believes.

Today, no one is wondering about cultured pearl sales. Popular fashion shows and countless ads for clothing feature them. Some experts do wonder what will happen, however, when consumers tire of the ubiquitous ads for white and now black pearls.

The answer, believe some market watchers, lies in the rainbow of other colors in which pearls strut their stuff. Designers first embraced pink, then gray and now even golden pearls. Pearl dealer Armand Asher of Albert Asher South Sea Pearl Co., New York City, is betting on additional consideration of color as a driving force in the pearl market. "What the fascination with Tahitian pearls did for the market was show consumers that pearls can be considered true colored gemstones. There are so many variations."

Salable Options
Asher's multicolored pastel Tahitian pearl necklace, which graces Professional Jeweler's cover this month, is one style the company hopes jewelers will be able to sell. The strand features a feast of shades that is nonetheless subtle enough for many conservative pearl buyers, believes Asher. And once consumers become comfortable with subtle variations in color in one strand, it's possible they'll accept even more pronounced multicolored strands.

The advantage for jewelers? These necklaces, though still requiring an expert's eye to put together pleasingly, are often somewhat more affordable than perfectly color-matched strands, when all other pearl factors are considered equally.

Along with color variation, jewelers also may want to consider slightly more baroque or blemished pearls to make the category more affordable. Though consumers have been trained to believe the only good pearl is a perfect pearl, jewelers can encourage them through education and salesmanship to see a pearl's natural blemishes and shapes as beauty marks in the style of a zaftig 1950s movie goddess, or even a very 1990s Cindy Crawford, whose facial mole is seen on countless magazine pages. With the growth in popularity of faux pearl strands, a cultured pearl's natural marks and shape variations are one way a consumer can demonstrate her pearls are real.

One final note: don't write off sales of black and white akoya, freshwater and South Sea cultured pearls in strands and in earrings, pendants and rings. These staples still make consumers' hearts beat faster, report the vast majority of pearl suppliers who sent images for this month's cover story. So feast your eyes, as pearls continue center stage.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue and Lorraine Suermann

Golden Indonesian South Sea Pearl necklace is strung with 35 pearls from 11mm to 13mm. The 18k gold flame clasp with diamond accents is designed by Susan Rosen. Matching golden Indonesian South Sea Pearl ring holds a 10.6mm golden pearl in a handmade 18k white gold setting between two trillion diamonds totaling 0.5 carat. Suggested retail for the set, $50,000.
American Pearl & Diamond, New York City; (212)221-3045, fax (212) 221-7430.

Three strands of cultured pearls are held together by a 14k yellow gold flower clasp with rhodium overlay set with pavé diamonds and a 7mm cultured pearl. Available in different sizes and carat weights. Suggested retail, $600-$900 for the enhancer as shown. Three pearl strands, $600.
Webmar Co., Monsey, NY; (800) 756-0356.

18k "double diamond" motif slide pendant features a 16mm white mabé faceted pearl, 9mm round bi-gray faceted Tahitian pearl, fancy colored sapphires and diamonds. Suggested retail, $3,250.
Kim Koch Designs, Mequon, WI; (414) 241-8244, fax (414) 241-1360.

14k yellow gold swirls around a 7.5mm white cultured pearl ($499 suggested retail) and 14k white gold swirls around a 7.5mm black cultured pearl with 0.16 carat of diamond accents ($799) in these similarly styled rings.
I.B. Goodman Co., Cincinnati, OH;
(800) 543-1945 or (513) 241-1206, fax (513) 721-3833.

Necklace features smooth, sculpted disks of 18k gold with a nucleus of 3.5mm white cultured pearls. Disks are connected by rounded pieces of movable 18k gold wire. Toggle clasp. Suggested retail, $1,295.
Martina Windels, Providence, RI; (401) 351-0968 or fax (401) 351-0960.

Black South Sea pearls dangle from 22k gold earrings with granulation.
Maija Neimanis, New York City; (212) 249-6236.

10mm black pearl is surrounded by 2.12 carats of pavé diamonds in this 14k gold ring. Suggested retail, $903.
Izi Creations, New York City; (212) 688-8885.

Matched Australian pearls and diamonds make up the Chameleons Collection. Two bracelets join to become one necklace. Earrings can be worn with or without detachable pearl drops. Add the cocktail ring to complete the ensemble. All made in white gold, platinum and 18k yellow gold.
Ella|Jewels by Ella Gafter, New York City; (212) 398-0101, fax (212) 302-0153.

Tin Cup-style necklaces are interpreted with colorful freshwater pearls on handwoven sterling silver chains with toggle clasps.
American Pearl Co., Nashville, TN; (615) 350-6600.

16-in. Tin Cup-style necklace features natural gray cultured pearls on a 14k white gold chain. Suggested retail, $198.
Shogun Trading Co., Harrison, NY; (800) 458-8004 or (914) 381-1414, fax (914) 381-7235.

White and black pearls set off this ring and earring ensemble.
JFA Designs, Irvine, CA; (714) 263-9909.




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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