This thread is in response to JShepherds question about the AAAA grading system.
I am starting a new thread to basically tell the whole story and to explain why I am so passionate about the subject of a universally accepted grading system:
When I first got into the pearl business I, like all others, needed to find a supplier. I knew that working with a company based in China could have its benefits but dealing with Chinese companies can be difficult. While working on another project I became acquainted with a company that dealt with pearls and also seemed to be knowledgeable about the logistics of selling them on the Internet. I was approached by this company offering to become my supplier for pearls. The company is called Pearls Only, and they are based in Beijing, China (www.pearlsonly.com).
I used them as my main supplier for a couple of years, until I felt that I had learned enough to venture out on my own. This process was expedited because I felt that their way of doing business was not completely ethical. In addition, consistency of stock and quality was becoming a serious problem as well as having issues with customs due to shipments being undervalued to save on custom's fees. This sometimes resulted in the customer receiving bills from the shipping carrier.
One of my main problems with them was their grading system. They use a system they designed themselves which uses A-AAAA instead of the standard A-AAA. Later in our relationship when I questioned the grading system and how to integrate the system into our own, I was told to make it up, because that is what they do. They did not want me to use A-AAAA the same way they did because this was their invention and their marketing tool. It was their method of making their products appear to be better than other dealers, and their way of charging more. Here is an excerpt of an instant message chat concerning the grading system:
PearlsOnly: but I just don't want my grade descriptions to just show up verbatin on the product spec
PearlsOnly: like AAAA - Excellent
PearlsOnly: instead if you must call it AAAA Top of the Line
PearlsOnly: all the other sh^t - like luster, shape, etc - I made those up - so you can also
PearlsOnly: there is no AAAA luster - if you know what I mean - that was my marketing approach
PearlsOnly: there is no luster grade
PearlsOnly: I invented it
PearlsOnly: there is shape grade
PearlsOnly: I also invented it
PearlsOnly: there is no shape grade is what I meant to say
PearlsOnly: the point is - the grading scales are a very powerfull marketing tool
PearlsOnly: if everyone is just using what I did, then its just making easier for people to compare to everyones sites
PearlsOnly: and that is not usefull for anyone
PearlsOnly: remember the purpose of the grading scale is to give people ability to compare products ON YOUR SITE - not against someone else site
PearlsOnly: I see the grades as an opportunity for our sites to have a unique marketing message
PearlsOnly: and if we make them all the same - then that message becomes the same
Needless to say, I have been on my own now for quite some time and we are doing so much better than before. Many of you on the forum have seen that I am always discussing pearl grading and actual grading scales. This is something that is very important to me, and it is certainly due to my past bad experience with Pearls Only.
I believe that the most important thing is to educate the customer and one way to do that is to provide accurate detailed descriptions of the pearls. The best way to accomplish this is through a universally accepted grading scale so that the customer can compare our pearls to those of another company. This is why I am so vocal and passionate when this subject comes up.