The National Jeweler Network e-zine is free and it devotes some attention to pearls now and then. This article, by Teresa Novellino, dated 10/28/06 turns out to be a reprint of one they did in March 06
The following passage is from a longer article called “Colored Stones”
Pearl boundaries break down
Distinctions between pearl types in terms of quality and price points have faded, as freshwater pearls have gained stature within the industry and simultaneously widened the color spectrum of pearl jewelry. Pearl styles continue to push the envelope. Several exhibitors in Tucson were showing pearl strands with different pearl varieties strung side by side, in mixes that might have been unheard of a few years ago.
"We need to go back to romancing the product, versus stifling consumers with the technical," said Todd Cislo of Gem Marketing Pearls, which featured a 72-inch multi-pearl strand at the GJX Gem and Jewelry Show. A mélange of Tahitian, pastel freshwater and SouthSea baroque pearls, it was wholesaling for $5,500.
Still, other pearl vendors play up the distinct differences among pearl varieties. Though freshwater pearls have improved, the much rarer akoya pearls, known for their unique luster, still command top dollar.
"There is no pearl that can compare to an akoya," said Peter Bazar, president of pearl manufacturer Imperial in Providence, R.I. "It's not easy to come by, but our akoya business has been very, very good."
An akoya strand with 7 millimeter to 7.5 millimeter pearls was selling for about $4,400. Imperial was also offering natural golden akoya strands, a product that at one time would have been either bleached white or discarded, but is now prized for its color, Bazar said.
For Mastoloni Pearls, design seemed to take precedence over pearl variety among Tucson buyers.
"Everything's selling across the board," said Fran Mastoloni of Mastoloni Pearls in New York. "Everyone is style-oriented. Lower-priced goods are selling well, and it's more design-specific."
Armand Asher of Albert Asher South Sea Pearl Co. in New York said he was selling baroque and golden SouthSea pearls, but obtaining Japanese akoyas in sizes above 7.5 millimeters to 8 millimeters remained difficult.
"You can get sizes only up to about 8 millimeters to 8.5 millimeters [in Japanese akoyas] and in Chinese akoyas, the farmers can't produce above 7-millimeter to 7.5-millimeter sizes," Asher said. When his clients seek akoya strands of 9 millimeters to 10 millimeters, the company has successfully sourced the pearls via Sotheby's or other auction houses, he added.
Gina Latendresse of American Pearl Co. in Nashville, Tenn., was selling brown conch pearls from Tennessee and Alabama for $50 to $200 per carat. In past years, the exotic pearl dealer would hardly have been able to give them away, she said.
But now, champagne and cognac are sought-after colors, as are pinks and lavenders.
"All in all, everybody's looking for something different, something eye-catching," Latendresse said. "The Chinese [freshwater market] has created more vibrancy as far as color....Pearls are having a bigger piece of the pie."
Editor's Note: This story was first published in the March 16, 2006 issue of National Jeweler.