clueless, Please help



My in-laws just visited from Japan. During the visit, they gave my wife some of their jewlery that they no longer use. In the jewlery she recieved was a large pearl set in a ring. The father said he bought it about 20-30 years ago for about $300 US, but the next day, the seller returned saying the sale was a mistake and offered to buy it back for $50,000 US :eek: He decided to keep the ring and has now given it to my wife.

I do not doubt the story, he does not seem like the type to exagerate. But being clueless about pearls, I cannot imagine that a single pearl would be worth that much (and worth that much 20-30 years ago). Besides the rought timeframe and purchase price, I dont know much about the pearl. My in-laws think it was from australia and that the reason the seller wanted to buy it back was the australia field it came from was no longer producing pearls (not sure what that means).

So, for those who know pearls, could a single pearl be worth that much? Was the pearl market higher back then? Why type of pearl could this be? If it was worth that much back then, any idea of the value of it now? Also, if it does have a high value, I would want to get it apprased and insured. Any advice on where this can be done in the NY/NJ area?

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


  • DSC02412a.JPG
    18.8 KB · Views: 14
Nothing about the pearl would make me think it would be worth $50,000. And, if there were such a price discrepancy I do not see them offering to 'buy' it back at a selling value. If they did offer to buy it back I imagine they more than likely offered 50,000 yen, not US dollars. Remember the value of the dollar and inflation. I am not an economics major, but think half million range...not a chance.
Australian pearl

Australian pearl


Although the 50,000 figure sounds a touch steep, this does look like a pinctada maxima pearl and I recommend having it x-rayed and appraised in case it may turn out to be a natural. Without historically significant provenance (i.e. it having provably belonged to somebody both famous and popular) you are unlikely to get this kind of price even for a big natural. Maybe in HK$ but certainly not in US$. So, please have it appraised by a qualified lab.

Zeide G. Erskine
Last edited by a moderator:
Thank you for your input

Thank you for your input

Thank you both for responding. Last night I was going over some of your comments with my wife and she thinks she may have translated the price to me wrong. She thinks it may have been purchased for $300 and the offer to buy back was $5,000, not $50,000. That seems more reasonable to me.

Also thank you for the advice on getting it xrayed and apprased. I did not know an xray could determine natural vs cultured.

So, just a few more questions. Are there any recommendations for a place to get it apprased? If it was natural, does that change its price much?

Thanks again.
I'd recommend sending it to Sharon Wakefield, BSChe, GG, ISA-CAPP. Wakefield, a widely respected gemologist and appraiser, holds a Graduate Gemologist (GG) diploma from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and is a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property through the International Society of Appraisers. Her contact information is:

Northwest Gemological laboratory
PO Box 8243
Boise, ID 83707

(208) 362-3938
FAX (208) 362-2889

She would also be able to recommend labs to send the pearl to, to get it x-rayed.
$5000 would definitely make more sense! To address your comment,
I did not know an xray could determine natural vs cultured
, when pearls are x-rayed, the examiner will be able to see if there is a bead nucleus inside the pearl which would determine if it was cultured. If there is not bead nucleus, then the pearl would be a natural pearl.

If the pearl is only 20-30 years old, it is most likely going to be a cultured pearl but getting it examined would be a great idea!