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  1. #1

    Wink John Tu's Pearls

    John Tu?s Pearls

    If you have read my photo story about the GemFaire, you already know my main pearl vendor is John Tu of Taiko Imports. For those of you who are not in the business of pearls, buying pearls is fun and also a challenge. The more pearls you see and handle, the better you become at weeding out the best pearls. I?m one of the little guys, but I?ve bought thousands of dollars of pearls. Finding great pearls is addicting.

    The GemFaire is a midsize tradeshow that travels from city to city, mostly on the West Coast. My biggest challenge at the GemFaire is the wholesale pre-opening of the show. This is an hour and a half period where you are competing with other wholesale buyers for the best goods. Speedy judgment is essential or someone else may snatch up all of the best pearls!

    John Tu doesn?t have a website or a fancy operation. He?s just a great guy who sells pearls. He?s been in this business for 18 years. As fast as things change with pearls, that?s a lifetime!

    Although he carries Akoya, South Sea, and Tahitian cultured pearls, the bulk of his inventory is in fancy varieties of Chinese Freshwaters. These range from inexpensive beading pearls to the finest quality keshi. I wanted to share photos of his pearls because they represent the wide range coming out of China and also because they are different from a lot of the pearls you?ll see online ? ?round and white? are definitely in the minority.

    Let?s go virtual-shopping together!

    First, here is my friend John. Behind him you can see my prime shopping grounds ? the wall of pearls. He?s showing off some of his seed pearls.

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    Let?s take a closer look?

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    Can you believe how tiny they are? I met a woman who had a lovely multi-strand necklace of seed pearls with intermittently spaced tiny multi-color sapphire briolettes. There must be a zillion things you could do with tiny pearls!

    Now for the closeup view?

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    The FTC says that only natural pearls can be called seed pearls. So these are really tiny freshwater cultured pearls, although there isn?t a difference that can be discerned from a test because these are not nucleated, or ?activated?.

    Can you imagine having to tie knots between these? No one is that patient, except maybe our own Knotty Panda.

    I mentioned the wall of pearls. That?s usually the first place I head for when the show opens. I?ll show you some of the simple pearls first.

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    These dyed silvers are so much fun. The shape and surface quality vary from hank to hank. Within hanks you?ll also find some variation, so you have to compare them carefully if you are combining pearls into a longer strand.

    Most of John?s pearls are naturally colored, like these buttons.

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    Small button strands look good with a flat side, almost like rows of gleaming corn. Good buttons in larger sizes should be gently curved on both ends.

    It takes time to find perfect strands without any flat spots. Even if you are brand-new to pearl appreciation, you?ve probably noticed that a lot of baroque pearls have a flat side.

    There isn?t a lot of space in a mussel and many pearls end up developing a flat area against the inside of the shell. The law of pearl economics is round = rare = high cost. If you don?t mind some flat spots, you can get a great deal on pearls. The key is making sure that the nacre coverage is just as good on the flat part. John has a lot of fun dyed pearls, some as low as a dollar a strand.

    I?ll be posting this in several installments, so please wait until the end to post replies.

  2. #2


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    Let?s go back to the wall to see more natural colors?

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    These are medium size ovals and drops. I sometimes feel a hypnotic trance coming on if I stare at them for too long.

    Here are some larger pearls. You can see that some are slightly ringed or have the occasional dimple.

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    Here are some fun shapes. They have awesome luster?

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    I?ve strung these so they alternate pointing up and down, and I?ve added crystals so they fan out and all point down/outward. People always want to touch these. I suspect that they may not believe that they?re real.

    Here are some natural colors in fancy shapes?

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    Along with some smaller buttons, here are some center-drilled stick pearls and some doubled stick pearls, where two pearls joined together during growth.

    Speaking of joined pearls?

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    ?Peanut? pearls are joined end to end. Here they are drilled lengthwise on the left and crosswise on the right.


  3. #3


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    Let?s take a look in the case at the fancies and keshi pearls?

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    This photo shows some stick pearls, fireballs, and white keshi petal pearls.

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    It would be fun to think up ways to use these. They?re much prettier out of the plastic bags and out of the case.

    Here are some enormous keshi petal pearls from the wall?

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    These are sometimes called cornflake pearls. This color fits that description perfectly.

    Here are the type of stick pearls that I think of as ?hippie? pearls. They look cheerful and carefree?definitely not formal!

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    John constantly updates his inventory to include the latest and greatest. The hybridization/pearl husbandry work is clearly showing in the lovely natural color variations.

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    Love the peach color!


  4. #4


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    I?ve been seeing more and more pearls that look like the pearl equivalent of a porcupine quill or anemone spine. I know one of you will know the official name?

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    I like these chubby ones. They have interesting circles and color banding?

    Here are some skinny ones?

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    Now these would make a great bead curtain for a doorway!

    You can see some stars at the right. These were one of the first variations of the coin pearl. They are ? of the price and four times as good as they were two years ago.

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    And their natural color blends beautifully with glass beads.

    Speaking of coin pearls, here are coin pearls on steroids. The square pearls are one inch wide!

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    I must admit that they look kind of blah after seeing the dyed version, so next we?re going to see dyed pearls.


  5. #5


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    It may come as a shock to the purists, but dyed pearls are very popular. Easing into color, here are some funky brown and green pearls?

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    I sell more pearls because women want to have colors to match their outfits. Whatever draws you in to becoming a pearl aficionado, is fine with me!

    In my memory, I had taken a lot of photos of dyed pearls, but I only took a few. My tripod wouldn?t reach the top row, where most of the dyed pearls were situated. And the next one is similar to this one?hmmm?I?m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I love chocolate colored pearls!

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    If you want color, here it comes. Remember those big square pearls?

    Here?s the colored version?

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    These are being sold in boutiques!

    Here are some rounds?

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    It?s amazing how fast the nacre gets layered on the bead. Interesting swirling patterns!


  6. #6


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    Here are some bead nucleated freshwater pearls?

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    I think these are tissue-nucleated, but you can never be 100% sure?

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    They look like they're melting and dripping!

    More natural color shimmer...

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    And here is a close-up photo of some lovely baroques.

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    These are sooooo beautiful!

    Last edited by GemGeek; 12-08-2007 at 07:22 AM.

  7. #7


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    John has all kinds of loose pearls. That helps if you need a replacement pearl or want to make earrings.

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    He has lots of Tahitian Pearls?

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    Let?s take a closer look at the specials?

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    Circled pearls!

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  8. #8


    John Tu?s Pearls, continued?

    I purchased these circled pearls from the specials to make fun earrings and pendants.

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    Here?s a token white south sea pearl photo?

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    But the truly lovely pearls are the goldens?

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    I would love a strand of golden south sea pearls from John?s pearls! For now, I have earrings and a pendant. I bought a golden south sea pearl ring from another vendor, who bought the pearl from John, so it?s all in the family at the GemFaire.

    I?ll post photos here each time I get new pearls of interest from John. If you find yourself at the GemFaire, be sure to say hi to John for me and tell him you?re from the Pearl Guide.

    Thanks for indulging me in another photo-story.

    Blaire, aka GemGeek

  9. #9
    Pearl Knotting & Wire Expert Senior Pearl Expert knotty panda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Blaire, thanks again for a wonderful exhibition! I'm glad you have your photo limit worked out. I've never seen a display like his. It bothers me going to the fairs and seeing tables with piles and piles of pearls all heaped on each other and someone in back of the table, talking on their cell phone, ignoring the customers. Pearls, and all the hard work which goes into farming them, deserve respect. He has a wonderful selection! Since it doesn't appear he will be travelling to this part of the country, do I place my order with you? Gotta have stars (on thars)! I also saw peanut pearls. Love them, so hard to find. I call them devotion pearls. Two so devoted to each other they bond in the mollusc, never to be parted.

    Blaire, wonderful show, wonderful treat. Thank you.
    Pretty Panda pic by nlerner on her U.S. excursion last year, San Diego Zoo.[/SIZE][/SIZE]

  10. #10
    First-graft Pearl Mandy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    Man, I wish I woulda thought to commission you to pick up a few strands for me! Lovely photos...I wish I could've been there to see them all for myself. Some of those freshwater strands were great!
    A semi-serious beader with a newfound love for pearls

  11. #11


    Knotty Panda, I know what you mean about display. His pearls on the tables are all carefully laid out, too. The vendor I purchase from in Tucson has their pearls in sacks and they get scratched by being dragged over each other. Peanut love, huh?!

    I asked John if I could get a group together and visit to purchase pearls. He loved that idea, and from what I hear, he has an unbelievable amount of pearls. He lives in Oregon, so that would take some major planning. Instead of a Pearl Walk, it would be a Pearl Fly!

    He's at the Costa Mesa show this weekend and is in San Diego next weekend, if anyone is going to be nearby.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Denmark & RI & Thailand


    what a nice thread! Thank you for posting the photos. The pearls are beautiful. It 'd be nice if there is such an exhibition in New England.

    GemGeek: Dose he have big loose round FWP?


  13. #13


    Quote Originally Posted by tanakarn1
    what a nice thread! Thank you for posting the photos. The pearls are beautiful. It 'd be nice if there is such an exhibition in New England.

    GemGeek: Dose he have big loose round FWP?

    Thanks! I haven't noticed large loose freshwaters. I'm assuming you are talking about over 10mm. There are a lot of dealers in NYC who would have good freshwater pearls. Is that a long trip for you? Off the top of my head, I know that Intergem has shows in Baltimore and Hartford. If you purchase one of the major beading magazines, they usually have a list of most of the shows around the country. Most shows have pearl vendors, but the quality varies.

    There are a lot of shows up and down the East Coast - way more than the West Coast. I could drive 130 miles to downtown Los Angeles where there are a lot of dealers, but it's more useful for me to go to a local show where I can pick up several things I need at the same time. I think you would enjoy going to a show and seeing the amazing variety of goods.

    Good Luck

  14. #14


    The two silver baroque pearls in THIS picture look fabulous... and a bit familiar from another thread (could it be?).
    Last edited by Valeria101; 12-09-2007 at 11:34 AM.

  15. #15


    You know, I didn't notice those monster pearls until after I had finished posting everything! They look like two different colors, and yes, they sure remind me of the Paspaleys. I'll ask him about them next weekend.

    What would you do with those? Or should I say, what wouldn't you do with those?