Pearls remain the ideal gift for many occasions, celebrating friendships, milestones and successes—from important birthdays and anniversaries to a graduation, new job or promotion. Birthstone for June, pearls evoke a radiant personality that is polished and poised, playful and pioneering.
Pearls also have a history as the wedding gem. Ancient Hindu writings tell the story of Kirshna, the protector, who gathered pearls from the sea to give to his daughter on her wedding day—the start of a centuries-old tradition of pearls as the perfect adornment of the bride. To this day, pearls are a personal favorite of brides, as well as treasured wedding gift from parent or partner to signify love.
No sparkling stone or glittering jewel has fascinated people for thousands of years like the soft, shimmering pearl. Timeless and universal, the pearl is rich in symbolism, celebrated by poets and painters across millennia and cultures as a metaphor for life itself.
Kathy Grenier, marketing director for Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island, says she adores the sentimentality pearls represent. “Almost everyone has a emotional connection to pearls and that has never changed. They’re an iconic gift that’s always appropriate.”
The variety of pearls that exists today offers something for everyone no matter the occasion from freshwater and Akoya to Tahitian and South Sea, in fashion to classic designs, and a range of price points, says Cora-Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio.
When one thinks of pearls, says Colaizzi, it’s hard not to imagine a bride. From a single pearl strand, studs or solitaire pendant to layered strands of different lengths, sizes, shapes and colors, brides have lots of options to style their wedding day and gift to their bridal party.
Bestsellers for the bride include pearl and diamond jewelry, reports Ray Mastoloni for Mastoloni Pearls, New York City, citing earrings in halo stud dangle styles, pearls interspersed on chain, and rings with center pearl flanked by diamonds.
About half the pearls sold in the bridal category are traditional classics, the other half fashion forward, says Grenier. “We’ve seen an upswing in classic studs and strands in high luster Akoya, 8.5mm-9mm sizes that are well priced. But more couples also are seeking unique designs with many embracing color like Tahitian pearls.” What’s most important, she says, is that jewelers have the pearl conversation.
Jewelers often miss the opportunity to sell pearls as gifts and accessories for the wedding day, says Wendy Fox, senior director of sales independent division for the Honora, a Richline brand in New York, who notes that training is key to open the conversation and capture the sale. “Jewelers need to identify products they can sell for the occasion, in styles that vary from classic to fashion. Pearls can start at $25 to $35 for a simple silhouette and go from there.”
Colaizzi suggests offering brides access to boxed sets in various combinations as conversation starters and easy gift sales. “Have sets that include studs and bracelet and/or pendant in different price points.”
Another powerful niche to promote pearls is the youth market. Pearls are a staple for all girls and starting them young offers jewelers a profitable gift center that can build collectors and grow their customer base. “We do a big business in pearls in both gold and silver,” says Audrey Robbins, Marathon Company, Attleboro, Massachusetts, known for its Kiddie Kraft brand. “Girls love pearls and they make fabulous gifts for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.”
Among the most popular products, cites Robbins, are pearl studs, in 3mm to 4mm size, dyed pink and lavender colors, with a diamond accent; pearls on a chain for necklace and bracelet, and pearl pendants. “We also do very well with mother-daughter styles. We hear from our retailers that this category is not only an attraction that gets people into the store, but also an impulse buy for customers who discover it and think of a family member to buy for. Parents and grandparents like that the products are well made and priced right.”
Honora also does a great business in pearls for girls, says Fox, from baby through teen. The Honora Girls collection includes box sets of candy color pearl studs and necklace-bracelet-earring ensembles, as well as small pearl pendants with cross, heart and star accent, and bracelets mixed with silver and leather. The brand also is launching cool styles in 14K gold that mix pearls and gem slices in motifs like heart, mermaid and ice cream cone.
Fox believes there’s a disconnect in family gifting of jewelry to kids and teens, but sees pearls as a great category to keep the tradition going with pearl jewelry sets and suites. “Engage sales people in training and stay present with them. The most successful retailers have the most knowledgeable staff.”
Grenier also advocates the build a pearl necklace concept like Pearl-by-Pearl. Building a pearl necklace with single pearls gifted over a girl’s childhood, Imperial’s program is available in 3mm-9mm Akoya, sold loose and as a starter necklace on 14K gold chain. “It’s a standalone, self-supporting business that builds the connection with the family jeweler to symbolize life events. It’s a minimum investment, with maximum return in building customer relationships.”