Professional Jeweler Archive: Pearl Pleasure

September 2000


Pearl Pleasure

Chinese pearls are still growing in popularity, as are strands of mixed colors and sizes

Cultured pearls. Nothing could be simpler or more elegant. White, black or muted pastel, the best ones catch our eye with a rich inner glow. Round, baroque or in between, their simplicity and adaptability offer endless design possibilities.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in each of the hottest cultured pearl categories.

Chinese Freshwater

Chinese freshwater cultured pearls were the hottest thing going last year and remain so this year. With improved technology, they’ve outgrown their rice-krispie reputation by mirroring the classic 6mm-7mm akoya cultured pearl.

What’s more, they’re far less expensive than akoyas (an 18-in. strand of white good-quality Chinese cultured pearls is about $200-$450 keystone; a similar strand of Japanese akoya cultured pearls is about $900-$1,350 keystone).

Driving the fashion trends are quantity (1,000 tons were produced in 1999) and color (peach, pink and lavender in addition to white). “More and more fashion jewelry designers are converting to freshwater cultured pearls, allowing anyone to afford a real cultured pearl. This is a good thing,” says Devin Macnow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center, New York City.

Suggestions to showcase: woven chokers and collars, multistrand necklaces and bracelets, and drop earrings. “The ethnic look – like the chandelier necklace – and a mix of akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and freshwater cultured pearls in a torsade are gaining popularity,” says Macnow.

South Sea

The design trend in South Sea cultured pearl jewelry is feminine with a slight modern edge. “Traditional whites with peach, pink or purple hues have fantastic appeal,” says Dave Dillon, president of Dillon Pearl, New York City.

Along with the pastel hues, rich, golden South Sea pearls are gaining a following. Supplies of South Sea cultured pearls are good, so whether your customer wants a strand or the popular look of a single pearl in a ring, pendant or drop earring, you’ll have no trouble finding the right design.


Tahitian cultured pearls and their palette of pistachio, aubergine, black and gray are drawing wider acceptance among knowledgeable consumers.

The latest trends combine the hues or, for funkier tastes, mix the pearls with pink coral, jade, moonstone or white quartz crystal. Most popular, says Macnow, are off-round to baroque Tahitian cultured pearls retailing for $5,000-$10,000.


Akoyas account for an estimated 50% of pearl jewelry, most often the traditional choker. However, layering (combining three lengths and different sizes from 6mm-8mm) is a popular new look. Also new: alternating akoyas and yellow gold stations.

Mix and Match

Pearls can have a chameleon effect. Demure by themselves, they make a formal, high-end statement when mixed with diamonds, yet look sporty and youthful when matched with colored gems. “Because pearls are no longer special-occasion jewelry, designers have to be open-minded,” says Jenine Kelly, director of sales at ProVockative Gems Inc., New York City. The open-mindedness extends to baroque, keshi and mabe pearls, which used to be department-store fare but now have caught the attention of high-end designers.

Trends by Category

Designers shared the following thoughts on what consumers want in each of the following pearl categories. Consider each when planning your inventory for the holiday season:

  • Earrings. Studs featuring pearls of any type with a single diamond accent on the bottom are simple and classic. Drop earrings with 3mm-11.5mm pearls are still simple, but bolder.
  • Necklaces. Cultured pearl strands in all variations, including pearl and 18k gold chokers with diamond pavé clasps, a single Tahitian pearl on a chain or neckwire and necklaces of same-size pearls.
  • Rings. Simplicity is the key: a South Sea cultured pearl with a diamond on each side is a popular variation of the three-stone diamond ring.
  • Bracelets. Strands of 8.5mm-9mm Tahitian black cultured pearls with interesting clasps or South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls separated by gold links will please your fashion-forward customers.
  • Brooches/Pins. Art Deco styles featuring an 11mm-12mm South Sea cultured pearl and diamond accents have captured consumers’ interest.

The Future

Here are some innovations that could turn into style trends, so watch for them: more estate styles, mixed Tahitian colors, faceted Tahitians, more yellow gold and coral, onyx, mother of pearl and little gold balls of varying color sculpted to fit organically with pearls.

– by Lorraine M. Suermann, A.J.P.

18k gold clasp features an 18.07-ct. emerald-cut green tourmaline and 3 carats of diamond pavé. It clings to three strands of a 10mm pearl choker. Suggested retail, $9,350 for the clasp, $42,000 for the pearl strands.

Studio Karu, New York City; (212) 663-7825, fax (212) 865-6415.

Repoussé gold octopus brooch is set with a central semibaroque South Sea pearl and scattered diamonds. The gold necklace centerpiece is set with diamonds and a single drop pearl on a row of semibaroque South Sea pearls. Matching earrings have pavé diamonds and South Sea pearls.

De Vroomen, London, England; (44-171) 837-4914, fax (44-171) 837-2891,

22k necklace features a 13.52-ct. grossular garnet cabochon, four Biwa coin pearls, 0.27 carat of diamond pavé and a detachable 13.5mm South Sea cultured pearl drop. Suggested retail, $19,600

Hocherman & Son Jewelers, San Francisco, CA; (415) 986-4066,fax (415) 986-1150.

Pavé cross pin is crafted in 20k gold set with 2 carats of diamonds and pink freshwater pearls. Suggested retail, $11,000.

Cathy Carmendy Inc., Santa Monica, CA; (310) 396-3120, fax (310) 399-5902.

Pistachio South Sea cultured pearls feature 18k gold and diamond rondelles.

Judith Ripka, New York City; (212) 355-0033, fax (212) 355-8757.

14k white gold earrings are each set with an 8.5mm white cultured pearl wrapped in 0.85 carat of full-cut VS diamond pavé. Suggested retail, $2,260.

Rockson Jewelry Mfg. Co., New York City; (212) 869-5068, fax (212) 768-2936.

South Sea Treasures collection features black Tahitian and white South Sea cultured pearl rings in platinum with VS diamonds. Suggested retail, $5,400-$6,000.

Kabana, Albuquerque, NM; (800) 521-5986 or (505) 843-9330, fax (505) 843-9624,

18k gold suites are set with black or white cultured pearls.

Greta Garbo Designs Inc., San Francisco, CA; (415) 392-5676, fax (415) 392-5677.

Brooches are each set with 4.16 carats of baguette diamonds. One has a South Sea cultured pearl and the other a Tahitian natural color cultured pearl. Pearls are 12.9mm. Suggested retail, $20,400 each.

Assael International Inc., New York City; (212) 819-0060, fax (212) 764-1965.

Crafted in 22k and 18k gold, this La Cage Ouverte pendant is hand-woven and holds a 14.6mm natural-color black Tahitian cultured pearl.

Barbara Berk for Rafco International GemCorp., Foster City, CA; (650) 349-4137, fax (650) 349-4042,

Crafted in 14k or 18k white or green gold, these barrel clasps are set with pink sapphires or round diamonds. Suggested retail, $450-$980.

Makur Designs, New York City; (212) 730-8696, fax (212) 730-8786.

14k gold rings feature 6mm white or dyed black cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $260 each.

A&Z Hayward, East Providence, RI; (401) 438-0550.

14k gold pendant holds a 10mm South Sea natural-color golden cultured pearl and 0.16 carat of diamonds. Suggested retail, $1,350.

Delmar International, Montréal, Québec, Canada; (514) 875-4800, fax (514) 875-5356.

14k white gold and 22k yellow gold set the tone for this mabé pearl and diamond brooch. Suggested retail, $2,225.

Becky Thatcher Designs, Glen Arbor, MI; (231) 334-3826, fax (231) 334-3535.

Balandance platinum necklace and earrings embrace black Tahitian cultured pearls.

Jeannette Fossas, San Juan, PR; (787) 722-4154, fax (787) 722-3858.

22k gold earrings are each set with a 0.75-ct. chrome tourmaline and 9mm black Tahitian cultured pearl. Suggested retail, $1,990.

Neshama, Los Angeles, CA; (310) 446-0628, fax (310) 446-6623.

18k white gold cuff bracelet has 42 7.8mm x 11.1mm, platinum-colored Tahitian cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $29,000.

Lilli of Miami, Miami, FL; (305) 358-9165, fax (305) 358-8346.

Indigo cuff bracelet is crafted in stainless steel mesh with amethyst and freshwater pearls. Suggested retail, $900.

Allison Stern, San Francisco, CA; (415) 252-0303, fax (415) 252-9518.

The Noé Marina collection combines white or black cultured pearls with small dolphins in 18k white or yellow gold.

Carrera y Carrera, Madrid, Spain; (34-91) 843-5193, fax (34-91) 843-5825,

14k gold earrings feature opal inlay and 4mm dyed black cultured pearls. Triple keystone, $495.

Idaho Opal & Gem Corp., Pocatello, ID; (800) 635-9800, fax (208) 233-0120.

Three strands of South Sea cultured pearls meet at an 18k white gold clasp set with 7.23 carats of baguette and round diamonds. Suggested retail, $54,100.

Picchiotti/DJS Marketing Group Inc., Miami, FL; (305) 860-9500, fax (305) 860-9454.

18k gold pendant features a South Sea baroque pearl Gemdrop and 1.20 carats of diamond pavé hanging from a slide set with 0.60 carat of diamond pavé. Suggested retail, $5,000 for the Gemdrop, $2,500 for the slide.

Barbara Westwood Designer Jewelry, Monument, CO; (719) 488-8083, fax (719) 488-1173.

14k white gold rings are set with 8mm cultured pearls and 0.10 carat of diamonds or two 2.3mm sapphires. Suggested retail, $405 with sapphires, $567 with diamonds.

David Connolly Inc., Marbledale, CT; (860) 868-9686, fax (860) 868-7323.

Two cabochon amethysts are set in a hand-finished clasp on a strand of baroque cultured pearls. The clasp is available in 14k gold, 18k gold, platinum or silver.

Primavera, New York City; (212) 966-5386.

18k gold pearl ring features an 8mm cultured black pearl. Triple keystone, $350. 14k gold earrings are set with 7mm white and black cultured pearls. Triple keystone, $350.

Stuller Settings Inc., Lafayette, LA; (800) 877-7777, fax (318) 981-1655,,

The handmade chain at top features a South Sea cultured pearl in an 18k gold acorn pendant. Suggested retail, $5,720. The 16-in. snake chain holds an 18k gold acorn set with a golden South Sea cultured pearl. Suggested retail, $2,584.

Pedro Boregaard, New York City; (212) 826-3660, fax (212) 826-3722,,

18k gold hinged cuff bracelet features 5042.5mm button pearls hand-wrapped in 18k gold. Suggested retail, $8,575.

Me & Ro Inc., New York City; (212) 431-8744, fax (212) 431-8650.

14k yellow and white gold stem caps are each set with an 8.5-9mm Biwa cultured pearl and accented with a 0.02-ct. G/VS diamond. The 18-in. chain is handmade. Suggested retail, $599.99 each, including the chain.

Henri Ramon Designs, Sussex, NJ; (973) 875-9808, fax (973) 875-4967,,

Multicolored pearls are strung on platinum and separated by 2.5 carats of faceted diamond beads. Suggested retail, $95,000.

ProVockative Gems Inc., New York City; (212) 980-4249, fax (212) 355-4282.

Australian South Sea cultured pearl earrings are crafted in 18k white gold set with diamond pavé. Suggested retail, $11,500-$13,000.

Dillon Pearl Corp., New York City; (212) 869-7292, fax (212) 869-1721.

18k gold brooch from the Galaxy collection features a charmeuse finish and is set with 2.64 carats of diamonds. The South Sea cultured pearl measures 22mm x 20mm x 17mm. Keystone, $19,908.

Barbara Taylor Fouts, Lafayette, CA; (888) 284-3399 or (925) 283-1881, fax (925) 283-1820.

Interchangeable diamond pearl pendant collection comes with five natural-color Tahitian, South Sea and freshwater cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $1,999.

Alter Gem Jewelry by Keith Baker, Harrisburg, PA; (717) 564-7930, fax (717) 564-3983,

From the Every Day Elegance collection, this 14k white gold suite displays black cultured pearls and diamond accents.

Stahl Design USA, Providence, RI; (888) 655-6736, fax (401) 722-9765.

Peacock and blue Tahitian cultured pearl pendants feature diamond accents in 18k white and yellow.

Rafco International, New York, NY; (800) 697-8277 or (212) 221-3435, fax (212) 398-0609.

Waterstone ring with diamonds and a cultured pearl center set in gold.

Robert Lee Morris, New York City; (212) 334-1684, fax (212) 219-9027.

From the Diva collection comes this 18k gold earring and bracelet set. Each piece is accented with sapphires and black Tahitian mabé pearls. Suggested retail, $1,980 for the earrings, $4,415 for the bracelet.

Klass Design Inc., Elko, NV; (775) 753-4262, fax (775) 777-3582.

18k white gold pendant features a 13mm-14mm natural black Tahitian cultured pearl and 1.88 carats of diamond pavé. Suggested retail, $4,980.

Tara & Sons Inc., New York City; (800) 235-2790 or (212) 575-8191, fax (212) 869-9332.

14k gold necklace is set with 2 carats of diamonds and 20 7-7.5mm akoya cultured pearls ($9,700 keystone). 14k gold earrings are each set with 0.1 carat of diamonds and 7-7.5mm akoya cultured pearls ($800).

Imperial-Deltah Inc., East Providence, RI; (401) 434-2597, fax (401) 434-0814.

Crafted in platinum, these rings, earrings and pendants are set with diamond pavé crowned with 10mm-12mm black Tahitian cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $1,200-$5,200.

Hellmuth, New York City; (212) 965-8036, fax (212) 965-8037.

White gold and black cultured pearls give this ring and pendant a sophisticated look. Suggested retail, from $224.

EMG Creations, New York City; (888) EMG-1212 or (212) 643-0960, fax (212) 643-0960,,

Platinum, diamonds and Tahitian cultured pearls make up this suite from the Envy collection.

Jiunta Fine Jewelry, Atlanta, GA; (404) 876-2060.

Passo Doppio necklace is crafted in 18k white gold and set with white cultured pearls and diamond pavé. Suggested retail, $4,400.

Bulgari, New York City; (212) 315-9700.

Mahal cultured pearl necklace is crafted in 18k gold and accented with sapphires and green tourmalines.

Julia Fluker for Maenad Designs, Newport, KY; (606) 261-4554, fax (606) 261-4664,

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications