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ABC's GMA Why Some Pearl Necklaces May Not Last

jshepherd

Natural Pearl
Joined
Jun 22, 2004
Messages
5,720
This is an interesting read if you didn't catch the actual episode. Investigators bought a bunch of akoya strands from a handful of national jewelry chains and had them examined by a couple of professionals. It turns out they were all basically junk and goes on to warn buyers that they need to be sure to purchase quality akoya pearls.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=126354

It's a good piece and mirrors one that was done a few years back, but I think it misses the main point.

Those retailers don't go to Japan or Hong Kong and select pearls themselves. They aren't pearl experts, or experts at buying or selecting pearls. They sell all types of jewelry. Their sales people aren't trained in pearls. They don't really know or understand what they are selling. They are only guilty of one thing - trusting their suppliers are selling a quality product.

There are only a handful of companies in the United States that supply nearly every one of those national chain jewelers and mom & pops. One of the companies is based near here and I personally witnessed the owner buy a large lot of 6-7 mm range akoya in Hong Kong that most members would consider junk for about $40 per strand. Most of the others are on the East Coast. They are the ones buying this junk and passing it off to their wholesale accounts as quality jewelry and it's a problem almost exclusive to akoya.

Why? You can't call a cheap freshwater pearl that is potato-shaped, has rings, surface blemishing and dull luster “fine.” Well, I shouldn't say that. I've seen 2-3 dollar Hong Kong strands called gem before, but even someone with failing eyesight can see what they really are.

Akoya are different. They are almost always round, so when compared with freshwater, they always win on shape. They inherently have better luster, so when compared with a dull freshwater, even the low-grade akoya still look ok. Customers and the retailers just don't know what they are buying. They don't know that a strand of $499 akoya was sold to the first set of hands for $40.

What about the akoya that was $499 when it was sold to the first set of hands? That is a quality strand of pearls you will find selling in a very high-priced retail store, often with a brand name and premium description attached and a price tag to match. The same wholesalers buy good quality too. But that isn’t where the money is made.

A few days ago, I posted in another thread that if pearls ever became commoditized in the way diamonds are, most companies that sell pearls would either go out of business or need to be completely restructured. This is why and they know it.

A better investigation, in my opinion, would have been to examine the suppliers and find out how large markups are every time their pearls cross a border or exchange hands.
 
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lisa c

Perpetual Pearl Student
Joined
Jun 28, 2009
Messages
3,601
Hear, hear!

My step-father spent good money buying akoya pearls for my mom, her first real pearls, and only a few years later they're so sad and dull looking, my heart aches. They haven't had daily outings either. He bought them before I knew about PG and the true-hearted merchants here, so. Nothing to be done. He's done some reading since then, but doesn't watch GMA, or he'd be all hot and bothered about it.

We should copy your post to GMA, and write GMA; but do you have the energy and time and allies to take up the gauntlet again? Do you want to? Is it time?
 

lisa c

Perpetual Pearl Student
Joined
Jun 28, 2009
Messages
3,601
Plus, I really hate it when I run across that Brown fellow selling pearls on tv. That's pretty small of me, isn't it. Not that the Brown fellow is the topic. He's a mouthpiece. The topic is quality and misrepresentation.

I also noticed when googling PP, that the recent thread PP vs ... is prominent, just as Caitlin predicted. Do you need a punching bag or something, for the office to blow off steam?
 
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cmd2014

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 18, 2014
Messages
308
It seems to be a problem with department store and mall-level jewelry stores....it reminds me of the lead-glass filled rubies issue.

It's true though that part of the problem is that even cheap akoyas look ok to an uneducated eye. I bought a strand and earrings at Overstock.com for $200 before I knew any better, and they hold up not too badly even to my metallic freshwater pearls in terms of luster even though I know that the nacre thickness is likely microscopic and it's only a matter of time before the bead wears through. It's hard to know as a consumer what you are actually buying much of the time. At the time I thought they were good pearls, until I saw what really good akoyas look like.
 

pearlescence

purveyor of pearls
Joined
Aug 18, 2007
Messages
3,844
It's precisely because of what you say in your first post, Jeremy, that I don't deal regularly in white Akoya. It's a specialised niche market
 

AMc

McA
Joined
Sep 18, 2006
Messages
893
Overall, thumbs up on the piece, but I am getting really tired of this "grains of sand" myth on how wild pearls get their start. I know burrowing parasites aren't very romantic, but when will the real facts finally get printed in a main stream article for the majority of consumers?
 

jshepherd

Natural Pearl
Joined
Jun 22, 2004
Messages
5,720
Plus, I really hate it when I run across that Brown fellow selling pearls on tv. That's pretty small of me, isn't it. Not that the Brown fellow is the topic. He's a mouthpiece. The topic is quality and misrepresentation.

I also noticed when googling PP, that the recent thread PP vs ... is prominent, just like Caitlin predicted. Do you need a punching bag or something, for the office to blow off steam?

I know exactly who you're talking about. I wrote a strongly-worded piece here on PG when he was selling fake pearls on ShopNBC and calling them 98% real. His reasoning was that they were a coated bead, sort of like nacre on a bead. The bead made them 98% real.

Pearls do so well on television shopping simply because they can get away with overselling quality and value because there are no set standards. But I have never seen anything that looked like the "spectacular" deal it was sold as. Instead things like brass (cheapest metal to make jewelry with - makes silver seem expensive) and white topaz (cheaper than CZ) are hyped along with commercial grade pearls.

The numbers don't work for fine jewelry either. I don't know what cut the channels take, but let's just estimate it at 50%, it may even be more. I was told by someone that had experience selling on QVC that the product return rate is about 30%. The sellers have to eat that so they build that into their cost. So if something is selling for $100, what could the seller's real cost be and still be able to turn a profit? You're probably looking at something in the $10 range. That means the markup could be 10 times.
 
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JerseyPearl

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 25, 2014
Messages
5,855
I believe that product return rate for QVC is based on all products sold, but I could be mistaken. I do know that QVC deals in volume. A small jewelry lot will likely be several thousand units, and a todays special value might run upwards of 20,000 units.
 

AMc

McA
Joined
Sep 18, 2006
Messages
893
I hadn't quite looked at the article in that light, but now that you mention it, it did seem to make quite a few blanket statements and focus on the negative rather than do their best to educate consumers. Hmmm.
 

BlackPearlDudeDC

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,599
This is an older thread, but still very relevant. I have to say I ran across the Mark Brown guy on JTV last week because June is Pearl month and he is known as their "Pearl Expert"

I did not know he went on to ShopNBC (Evine) after he first left JTV, but I do know that he first appeared selling those "Pearlfection" pearls on JTV many years ago. Prior to that he was the JTV pearl expert(but at the time it was known by some other shopping channel name I don't recall) along with another pearl expert whom was female (Don't recall her name, but she was Asian and had the most charming Southern accent). Well he has returned to JTV(alone this time, though his brother is a "Gem Expert" on JTV)?and not much has changed as far as his "Hyping" up his pearls, especially his "Fine Fine Akoyas" as he likes to call them.

I confess many years ago I bought some pearls from Him on JTV, I did it out of extreme curiosity. They were selling an Akoya pearl necklace and really hyping up the deal, for a limited time you get two for the price of one (I don't recall the $$, but I think something like $50). I knew for sure it would be crap, but they were selling these pearls like they were the last Oreo cookies left in the world, and I wanted to know how they could claim great quality. Though I recall they focused more on it being a great value?which are two different things. When they arrived I was not too surprised, they looked like junk (My grandmother's peeling Napier pearls looked better). The nacre was very very thin, if there at all, and more often than not the bead nucleus was completely visible, I don't mean through the nacre but there was no nacre on some part of the bead. For a joke, I put one of the strands around my dogs neck (and forgot about it) took her for a walk?and low and behold the necklace was gone. So there went my returning them and using the generous 30-day return policy which was my plan all along.

I believe I still have one of those horrid necklaces somewhere in the Salvation Army scrap pile I keep meaning to sort through. I have a love/hate relationship with JTV. I love how they open up the world of gemstones to a wider audience that might not have ever heard of "Mali Garnet" or "Conch Pearl", however their representation of what these things are leaves so much to be desired. It could be good or bad, when people see "Crap" jewelry, the have a better appreciation for what is truly Fine. Then there is that small percentage that will never care and will remain repeat shoppers buying crap?just to own crap.

Anyhow my feeling on MB and snake oil "If you repeat it enough times they will come", even if just out of curiosity (I'm now blushing and getting off my high horse)
 
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