Site Review | Professional Jeweler

February 28, 2000
Pala International Pala International

Pala International buys and sells colored stones, so it only makes sense that its new Web site would offer lots of color. The site opens with a huge (fist-sized on a 15-inch monitor) gemstone. Clicking on the gem leads to the main menu. Selecting "Precious Stones" takes you to the centerpiece of Pala's site, a search engine that allows visitors to search the company's inventory. There are two ways to use the search engine – either as a member of the jewelry trade or as a consumer. If you're a professional, Pala requires that you register, provide information about yourself or your company and get a password. You may then search among Pala's inventory for the type, size and price of stone you need. Consumers can do almost the same thing without registering, except that Pala doesn't disclose prices to unregistered users. "To purchase an item, print out its description and show it to your local jeweler," the site tells consumers. "(He or she) can then go online and order the piece for you from our Web site."

Visiting as an unregistered consumer in late February, Professional Jeweler asked for citrines between 1 and 2 carats. The search engine quickly reported that Pala had two orange citrines in stock, both 1.58 carats.

The site is designed to encourage contacts. Multiple paths, for instance, lead to the registration page. Go to "What's New" – it's about Pala's new gemstones, not press releases – and if you're captivated by the descriptions of Nigerian rubellite, Russian demantoid or jungle jade, there are several handy "Contact" links which take you to a list of the company's top people, their e-mail addresses and toll-free phone numbers.

Other links will take you to The Collector, a sister Web site for Pala's two retail outlets near San Diego. It's still under construction, but visitors will find a map that shows the easiest routes to both stores. Also under construction is a page that will be devoted to specimen stones – destined for gawking, not cutting.

Other handy items include Pala's business policies and a form to get on the mailing list for its newsy, though erratic newsletter. (The most recent issue was January 1998.) And if you have something to sell, Pala's list of wanted gems will give you a good idea if it's interested. (They're mostly big colored gemstones.)

There are other forms of color too. Click on "About Pala" and read the history of Pala International and its founder, Bill Larson. In a 1990 article reprinted from Ranch & Coast magazine, Larson reminisces about his gem-hunting trips around the world, including a visit to Sri Lanka where he sampled fruit bat curry and was uncomfortably close to a bomb blast during civil unrest in the Southeast Asian country.

Click on for a 1992 story (reprinted from the San Diego Union-Tribune) that recounts how Meg Berry, a champion cyclist and Pala's top gem-cutter, came back from maternity leave to cut a 26-carat emerald worth $250,000 that was retrieved from the wreck of a 17th-century Spanish galleon by treasurer hunter Mel Fisher.

Now that's color!

- by Mark E. Dixon