Pearls offer it all: selection, tradition, trends, uniqueness, beauty, versatility, and rarity coupled with margin, profit, turn, and distinction for your market, advocates the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA).
The perks of pearls, describes Fran Mastoloni of Mastoloni Pearl, New York as “profitable, powerful, professional, and playful;” and he hails the category as healthy in all varieties: Akoya, South Sea white and golden, Tahitian, and freshwater cultured pearls. He notes that there are a lot of different qualities that are workable in cultured pearls, a category that continues to provide strong margins in a way that diamonds cannot.
Attainability is a big plus factor—from Large or small budget, everyone has access to pearls, advocates Kathy Grenier, marketing director, Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island, and CPAA spokesperson. In addition to variety in type, there are many options in color, luster, size, and shape – there truly is a pearl for every client.
Moreover, pearls have a great sustainability story that’s very relevant to many consumers today, especially the younger generations. “Much of the industry practices and upholds the governing principles and actions of sustainable pearl farming,” says Grenier. “No other gem comes from a living organism, born in pristine conditions, under strict care by loving guardians.”
Ashley Corely, gemstone product manager for Stuller, the Lafayette, Louisiana based jewelry manufacturer and supplier, has seen an upward trend in cultured pearls this year – across the board and particularly in loose Akoya. “The markets are so strong with freshwater, as well as Akoya, pricing and availability are in a really good place for sales growth. Strands are always popular and will continue to be; they’re just classic, an easy sell.”
Mastoloni also cites a robust business in all pearl types, particularly on the high end, but he notes that Tahitian pearls in larger sizes have been difficult to get, as well as South Sea golden pearls, a favorite of the growing Chinese market. He sees China’s local market moving away from its own freshwater pearls to embrace South Seas and Akoyas, making it more important than ever to partner with reliable pearl sources with longstanding relationships with the farmers.
“Pearl is the one jewelry category where there’s a lot of new happening, which has kept it a favorite among designers and manufacturers,” cites Joel Schechter, Honora Pearls, New York. “In the past 20 years pearl production has brought to market new colors, both natural and dyed; and an array of interesting shapes.”
A real game changer for the market, hails Schechter, is the newest evolution of freshwater pearls that on the high-end is rivaling South Seas. “This bead nucleated freshwater cultured pearl from China is so large, and of such fine quality, it’s unprecedented. Freshwater pearls out of China have been seen as the inexpensive alternative, but the high quality, big sizes, natural colors, and variety of shapes produced are really blowing some minds in the pearl business. It’s really exciting.”
Honora is calling these pearls Ming, while Imperial Pearl brands it as Windsor. Schechter says the few farmers producing these pearls grow one pearl in one shell, like the South Sea process, focusing on bigger sizes and better quality. Recent harvests are producing sizes ranging from 11mm to 18mm, with 12mm to 16mm the sweet spot, in skin friendly colors that resemble a make-up palette, as well as classic white. About half of the production is now round, the other baroque shapes. “The material is clean and bright; an amazing value as very fine and big sizes are not plentiful in South Seas.”
Grenier says the pastel colors, especially in metallic mauves and purples pair well with popular rose gold, and complement Pantone’s Color of the Year, Marsala. “This pearl is selling in everything from cool fashion to classic looks! The affordable price points are allowing jewelers to offer big statement pieces that won’t break the bank, expanding the pearl audience even more.”