Professional Jeweler Archive: Pearl Abundance

March 2004


Pearl Abundance

Great prices and fashionable styles keep pearls top-of-mind with consumers

‘We’re anticipating a big push back to pearls in 2004,” says Fran Mastoloni, vice president of Frank Mastoloni Sons Inc., New York City. “Pearls are in all the magazines, on TV and in the movies. And a lot more consumers can afford them now.”

The current abundance of black Tahitian, South Sea and Chinese freshwater pearls has opened new markets for pearls – there’s a gem available for every customer. Tell your customers now is the time to buy. “I don’t advertise lower prices,” says retailer Elizabeth Parker of Curt Parker Jewelers, St. Louis, MO. “I call our clients and educate them about the current overproduction and favorable prices and explain the urgency in purchasing now.” Lower prices also mean higher-quality strands for customers who want Tahitian and South Sea cultured pearls but wouldn’t spend the money before.

Pearls are classic jewelry. However, with pearls available in more sizes and shapes, you can sell more interesting – even risky – designs. “Baroque pearls offer asymmetrical shapes and design while possessing a high luster, great orient and less-expensive price tag,” says Kathy Grenier of Imperial Deltah, East Providence, RI. “More interesting designs and pearls help consumers think of pearls as fashionable jewelry. And it’s critical for category growth that pearls be seen by the younger consumer as fun and fashionable.”

Here’s what’s selling in pearls:


It’s back to classics with traditional studs sometimes complemented by diamonds. There’s an emphasis on 6.5mm pearls. Pearl dangles that can detach from the stud are popular also. “This is a great add-on purchase. I call it Legos for women,” says retailer Eve Alfillé, owner of Eve J. Alfillé Ltd., Evanston, IL.


Slightly graduated strands, from 9mm to 12mm and 16-in. or 18-in. long are selling, though some consumers want strands of uniformly sized pearls. Enhancers sold on silk cords are great buys. “Long strands are out,” says Alfillé.


Classic designs with a light diamond pavé or a stone on each side of the pearl are hot. A pearl set among diamond leaves or organic undulating waves of metal with diamonds is formal. “The idea is minimalist styling that embraces the pearl,” says Steve MacDiarmid, director of public relations and trade shows for Stuller, Lafayette, LA.


Multistrand and grouped strands are two desired looks for bracelets. Beaded pearls with gold elements or pearls set into the metal offer a trendy feel. “Bracelet designs are becoming more modern,” says Parker.

Pins & Pendants

Brooches that can convert to a pendant are versatile. Bar pins are appropriate for women’s business dress. The traditional circle or wreath-style brooch never goes out of style. “Open designs that can be adapted to the unique characteristics of a cultured pearl are the leading edge in design,” says MacDiarmid.

Pearls with Other Gems

Depending on the design of the jewelry, all diamond shapes can work. However, round brilliant and triangular side stones and dangling briolettes are the most popular shapes. When using colored gemstones, the saturation of color must be deep to set off the pearl. Blue sapphire, ruby, tanzanite, tourmaline, aquamarine, morganite, black onyx and colored enamel can enhance the appearance of a pearl’s luster and color overtones.

Multiple Colors

Multiple pearl colors translate into lots of options for the fashionable look consumers want. “Black and white will always have a presence,” says MacDiarmid. The multicolored strand, which originated with Tahitian pearls, can also be done with freshwater pearls, though the look has peaked in some regions. Demand for varying single colors for solitaire pieces is strong too. Rose, black, pink, gold and peach are all near the top of the list.

– by Lorraine M. O’Donnell, A.J.P.

Golden Burmese cultured pearls cascade from a 20k chain Suggested retail, $7,470.

Cathy Carmendy, Santa Monica, CA; (310) 396-3120.

18K gold brooch has a single black Tahitian cultured pearl at its center. Suggested retail, $2,600.

Suna Bros. Inc., New York City; (800) 456-7862, fax (212) 869-5922.

Untreated natural color Tahitian cultured pearls range from 8.2mm to 10.8mm and feature an 18k ball clasp.

Elyria Pearls, San Francisco, CA; (415) 674-1406.

14k white gold earrings set with 8.5mm South Sea cultured pearls have 0.30 carat of round brilliant diamonds and are $950 suggested retail. Matching necklace with 0.15 carat of diamonds is $550.

C.K. Gumpert, Los Angeles, CA; (800) 843-3998 or (213) 626-6531, fax (213) 627-4406.

18k gold earrings and pendant feature Chinese freshwater coin pearls.

Denise Wood Design, Darien, CT; (203) 655-0523, fax (203) 656-1053.

18k gold necklaces are formed with natural-color cultured pearls.

Shogun Pearl, White Plains, NY; (800) 458-8004, fax (914) 640-2814.

Pink and black 10mm cultured pearls hang from an 18k white and pink gold necklace with 5.90 carats of white diamonds and 0.34 carat of natural pink diamonds. Suggested retail, $30,115. 18k white and pink gold earrings have 10mm pink cultured pearls, 0.35 carat of white diamonds and 0.71 carat of natural pink diamonds. Suggested retail, $10,700.

Bergio, Totowa, NJ; (888) 237-4464 or (973) 956-8000, fax (973) 956-1818.

18k gold pendants and earrings hold black or white cultured pearls and diamond accents.

Somos Creations, Nyack, NY; (845) 348-3636, fax (845) 348-1965.

14k gold necklace is set with 0.22 carat of SI diamonds with a 12mm gold South Sea cultured pearl and a 12mm black Tahitian cultured pearl. Suggested retail, $2,900.

ASBA & Dangler Designs Inc., Sarasota, FL; (941) 366-3887, fax (941) 366-4027.

Platinum ring features a black Tahitian cultured pearl and 0.02 carat of diamonds. Suggested retail, $2,200.

Claude Thibaudeau, Montreal, Canada; (877) 397-9411, fax (800) 644-5077.

14k gold heart with 0.14 carat of diamonds hangs from a strand of gray keshi pearls. Suggested retail, $225.

Designs by Joi, New York City; (212) 869-4653, fax (212) 869-8588.

18k white gold earrings feature 12.10mm South Sea cultured pearls and 0.91 carat of diamonds. Suggested retail, $5,300.

Rina Limor for J.R. Gold Designs, New York City; (800) 999-0583 or (212) 922-9292, fax (212) 922-2992.

18k bracelet comprises golden green Chinese freshwater pearls, faceted citrine and brushed sterling beads. Retail, $350.

Arlee Kasselman Jewelry Design, Scottsdale, AZ; (800) 891-6060 or (480) 998-9720, fax (480) 998-9703.

14k gold ruffle cuff bracelets hold Chinese freshwater pearls and/or tanzanite.

Tom Kruskal Designs, Somerville, MA; (800) 225-6409.

Five-strand necklace comprises freshwater cultured pearls and garnet beads with a sterling bamboo clasp. Retail, $490.

Boucher, New York City; (212) 807-9849, fax (212) 633-1385.

The new Swing line from Schoeffel features Tahitian cultured pearls that swing from diamond and pastel sapphire bars.

Schoeffel/KWM Exclusives Inc., Miami Beach, FL; (305) 534-0000, fax (305) 534-9933,

Nitrile collar with 18k gold key ends (top) has a 13mm circle pearl and is $170 suggested retail. Middle collar is 18k gold and stainless steel twist with a 12mm circle pearl ($467). Bottom collar is 18k gold twist with a 12mm baroque pearl ($2,716).

Stuller, Lafayette, LA; (800) 877-7777.

point of $ALE

Explain cultured pearl quality factors and how they relate to value, including size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality and whether they match (if you’re selling a matched strand).

Sell pearls as a complement to the woman. For example, a redhead looks wonderful in peach Chinese cultured pearls, while all skin tones go with Tahitian and South Sea pearls. American women have traditionally been drawn to pinkish pearls, but this is changing. The spectacular array of colors available helps women see other possibilities with their skin tones and hair color. Allow the customer to wear the pearls and see for herself.

Be careful before calling even high-end cultured pearls “all-natural.” It’s likely the pearls have been bleached, waxed, irradiated or dyed, so get assurances from trusted suppliers before selling cultured pearls as “all-natural.”

Explain how to care for pearls: Don’t wipe them because this pushes oil into the thread (for strands). Lay the pearls on a towel and whisk away the oils. Or gently wash pearls in Woolite and lay them flat for 24 hours. Never leave pearls in a dry place.

Display pearls properly. Gray or white backgrounds bring out the beauty of silver pearls. Piney green is good for black, white or golden pearls. Black pearls gets lost on a black background. Custom display units help promote pearls by setting this product apart from other merchandise.

– L.M.O.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications