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  • Vietnamese Akoya Farms?

    VIETNAMESE AKOYA
    Gem Profile
    by David Federman / Modern Jeweler, Oct 2007

    Anyone watching the world pearling situation would think Mother Nature has put the Akoya pearl on her hit list. Japan is diminishing steadily as a producer. And China was ripped by two tropical storms between August 9 and 12 this year that destroyed 65 percent of its Akoya crop after days and nights of rain dropped the salinity levels of bays so low tens of millions of nucleated oysters died. Salt-free diets may be good for humans but they are as bad as bad can be for saltwater oysters.

    As a result of this disaster, Akoya prices could climb by as much as 40 percent next spring and summer when pearl shortfalls start to be felt. Don?t worry. The price hikes are supposed to be temporary. As part of an industry rescue operation, China has already given farmers generous grants to buy new oysters and bead nuclei. But China is such an environmental basket case that both its saltwater and freshwater pearl industries face plenty of future stormy weather.

    So what?s an Akoya lover to do? Well, if you?re a fan of Chinese Akoya pearls, our advice is biblical: Love thy neighbor. We?re talking about Vietnam to China?s south where for the past decade or so several promising pearl farms have been launched and are now prospering.

    While it?s too soon to predict, or even pray, that this southeast Asian country will become a much-needed backup to China and Japan, Vietnam is definitely on better terms with Mother Nature as of late than either of those other pearl superpowers. What?s more, farmers there seem intent on growing pearls that are throwbacks?in terms of nacre thickness?to those from the last years of Japan?s golden age in the 1950s and 1960s. ?Cut one of our pearls in half and see for yourself,? says Anil Maloo of Baggins in Los Angeles, which is now the main American conduit for Vietnamese Akoya pearls.

    Speaking of throwback pearls, Vietnamese farms also produce what Maloo calls ?baby Akoyas? in sizes as small as 2mm, which helps to fill the dearth of and demand for tiny pearls that Japan has not been able to address in years.

    How did Maloo get an inside track on Vietnamese pearls? His family owns a pearl farm (on which he worked ten years ago) and gladly provides Baggins with enough pearls to have established a west coast beachhead for this newcomer pearl producer.

    The rest are sold to and through Japan. Unlike Chinese Akoya pearls, however, which are shipped to Japan for processing and sold with a ?Made in Japan? label, these pearls are sold as Vietnamese in origin. That should tell you something about the esteem in which these pearls are held. They deserve to be. Here?s why.

    THICK SKINS, FAST GROWTH

    If you talk to dealers familiar with Chinese and Japanese Akoya pearls, they?ll tell you that 0.5mm nacre thickness is above average these days. But at the Vietnamese pearl farm that supplies Baggins, that?s considered nacre thinness, not thickness. ?Our aim is to make only thick-coated pearls,? says Maloo. ?Our target is to have a minimum of 1mm nacre thickness. Already we have been able to cultivate 5-6mm pearls from a 2.5mm nucleus within one year of harvest.?

    How has the farm been able to develop pearls with thick skins in such short times? For starters, warmer waters help speed up nacre accumulation. In addition, Vietnam?s waters are cleaner, less crowded, and more regulated than China?s. Last, there are only four or five farms in Vietnam?s relatively virgin southern coastal growing region. Altogether, Maloo estimates Vietnam?s current Akoya production at 700 to 800 kilos per year. But he hopes that farm output will double by 2010.

    The emphasis on thick nacre pearls results in a greater percentage of off-round and baroque shapes. Years ago, that would have been bad news. But with baroque shapes as popular as they have ever been, this consequence suddenly becomes a compensation for high ideals and an insistence on quality.

    Pushing the nacre envelope has other advantages. ?As the nacre gets thicker,? Maloo continues, ?the color tends to become warmer, which we believe is the true color of Akoya pearls.? So Vietnam presents pearl lovers with a choice: Creamier-colored thick-skinned Vietnamese pearls versus more ghostly-white thin-skinned Chinese and Japanese pearls. Indeed, Baggins? farm produces so many distinct hues?including golds and grays?that it can make many multicolored strands.

    Soon we expect to see out-and-out golden and black Vietnamese pearls. Indeed, jewelry designer Chi Huynh of Galatea, San Dimas, California, is producing small harvests of black pearls in middle Vietnam with the same black-lipped oyster used in Tahiti. Sizes are generally less than 8mm because Huynh wants medium-sized round pearls grown in eight months time that he can cut to expose sections of the gems like citrine and amethyst which he uses as a nucleus. But other farms are planning large productions.

    The same goes for South Sea pearls. ?Presently, we have white South Sea oysters in our hatchery, and this year we will be able to implant 10,000 oysters,? says Maloo. Last, freshwater pearl farms in northern Vietnam are also beginning to contribute to world production.

    All in all, Vietnam now functions as a mini-microcosm for the full global range of freshwater and saltwater cultured pearl varieties. No wonder Maloo says, ?I believe that Vietnam has the potential to become a major pearl producer.? Given the country?s high quality standards, it would be a welcome addition to the pearling league of nations.

  • #2
    That is a very interesting article. It didn't mention the freshwater pearls- black ones- that some one is growing in Vietnam. I look forward to Vietnam taking its place in the world pearl market.

    Heey Slreap...What do you know about this?
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

    Comment


    • #3
      ?I believe that Vietnam has the potential to become a major pearl producer.?
      I believe it too. I was there four years ago and they were just starting to break through with their efforts with P. Maximas. I can only wonder where they are with it today.

      "Sizes are generally less than 8mm because Huynh wants medium-sized round pearls grown in eight months time that he can cut to expose sections of the gems like citrine and amethyst which he uses as a nucleus"
      Can't wait to see that.
      Josh Humbert
      Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
      www.kamokapearls.com
      FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls
      @KamokaJosh

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi Caitlin,

        There are two Australian fellows culturing p.maxima in Phu Quoc with good success. They get some really big goldens---some are going for around $500USD per pearl to visitors. This past spring, a full necklace of big goldens was going for $16,000USD.

        Akoya culturing in Vietnam is strong. Freshwaters pop up here and there. The Vietnamese are very crafty and resourceful, so I've no doubt that they will be major players in the global pearl market in the next few years.

        As for the natural black freshwaters, I personally think it has more to do with what the farmer is putting in the water(colour cultured) than the actual mussel type. No word on him or his venture.

        Hi Josh,

        The Vietnamese jewellery artist has already succeeded in nucleating with quartz beads. His work has been around for a couple of years now.

        Slraep

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        • #5
          Is there a link to the Vietnamese jewel-in-the-pearl carver?
          Caitlin

          How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

          My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

          Comment


          • #6
            You can view Chi Huynh's beautiful carved pearl work here:

            http://www.modernjeweler.com/print/M...re-Values/1$42

            and Chi's absolutely gorgeous dreamy stuff here at Galatea:

            http://www.diamondinapearl.com/main.php?act=category

            Slraep
            Last edited by Slraep; 10-12-2007, 08:32 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Just look at this thing. Amazing. A turquoise bead nucleus.

              http://www.diamondinapearl.com/main....ail_con&id=335
              Last edited by Slraep; 10-12-2007, 08:31 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                "Sizes are generally less than 8mm because Huynh wants medium-sized round pearls grown in eight months time that he can cut to expose sections of the gems like citrine and amethyst which he uses as a nucleus"
                Can't wait to see that.


                They're actually quite unique and beautiful- somebody posted images of them on here somewhere... Apparently this artist decided to go into partnership with some Vietnamese farmers so he could get the pearls with the appropriate thin nacre layers in order to carve his artworks easier- The Tahitian government won't allow him to export the pearls without the minimum .8mm thickness standard, even though he is pretty clearly working on something totally unique... Good luck to him!-

                I am pretty sure that he's working out of San Diego at Galatea... I am totally impressed with his work too- he recently invented a new gemstone cut called the Davinci- in which light penetrates the stone's table in original faceting and allows a color change! I believe he uses this technique in Topaz at the moment...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Amazing stuff. Thanks for the links Slraep. It's a shame we can't do that down here.
                  Josh Humbert
                  Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
                  www.kamokapearls.com
                  FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls
                  @KamokaJosh

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Ooh, nice. Can't wait to see the thick-nacred Akoyas. I believe by the time Vietnam emerges as a major supplier I should have enough savings to buy some ... still struggling to get some gem tahitians for a bracelet these few months.
                    Aspiring ninja. Go Storm Shadow!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Vietnam has been a small producer for some time. It is nice to see them begin to mature.
                      I have to admit, however, that I have never seen them marketed as Vietnamese akoya pearls. I knew they went to Japan, but always assumed they were simply sold as Japanese akoya just like the Chinese akoya is. I find the labeling claim hard to swallow. It would be a huge step in the right direction, but it does not make sense, especially if a lot of the production is backed by Japanese.
                      Jeremy Shepherd
                      President and Founder
                      PearlParadise.com, Inc.
                      The PearlParadise.com YouTube Channel
                      PearlParadise.com on Flickr
                      PearlParadise.com on Facebook
                      Some of My Favorite Pearly Finds on Instagram

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        When I was there that's exactly what I saw, Japanese backing. They sure were working hard and making beautiful pearls happen though. Maybe the Japanese have a vested interest in them being pushed as unique?
                        Josh Humbert
                        Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
                        www.kamokapearls.com
                        FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls
                        @KamokaJosh

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Some older news from last year but still gives an idea of what is happening in Vietnam.


                          Quang Ninh lures tourists with pearl oyster cultivation
                          Tuesday, 15 August 2006

                          The northern coastal province of Quang Ninh has evolved into the country's largest pearl oyster farming centre which brings in an average revenue of around 4 million USD a year. Pearl oyster farms in the province are mostly operated by ten companies, including two wholly foreign owned companies. They concentrate in the waters of Van Don district and Ha Long City. These companies reported that they are nurturing 55 million oysters in 450 ha of water, of which, 17.5 million are expected to bear pearls. Experts predicted that by the end of this year, Quang Ninh province will export around 1,100 kg of pearls. Pearl oyster cultivation has become another attraction of Quang Ninh province, which is already famous for Ha Long Bay, a world heritage site.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Elisabeth Strack on Vietnamese pearls

                            http://www.pearls.com/news2/pp23/vietnam.htm

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That website has many other good articles worth reading. Start at pearls.com

                              It is also the home of Eyris abalone pearls in America.

                              Also on the Links page, this site is at the top of the page
                              Last edited by Caitlin; 10-13-2007, 06:42 PM.
                              Caitlin

                              How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

                              My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

                              Comment

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