Is eBay Fraud/Misrepresentation eroding the Reputation and Value of Saltwater Pearls


Sep 20, 2006
See the presentation from last year's Pearl Guide Ruckus HERE

Is eBay Fraud/Misrepresentation eroding the Reputation and Value of Saltwater Pearls
We purchased eleven saltwater listings and all of them were freshwater pearls.

Hopefully Jeremy will come and comment on why there are no farm-direct sellers.
You're all very welcome. I finally figured a way to get it into an article or I would have done it sooner. :) The awful thing about the fake sales is that people have no idea they have been tricked. Sigh.
Awesome presentation! I had my own share of fraud experiences with Chinese pearl sellers and posted a couple of years ago (one is a sticky in the ebay pearls section). I had every single seller refund my money in full and had ebay step in to refund my money on another shell pearl with a 14k gold clasp that failed the acid test. The seller did not return my messages so when I sent ebay the photos, they refunded me my funds. I was able to post negative feedback to that seller. However, on the sellers that refunded me money, they did something to make the transaction disappear from my purchase history. I did find out later how to add feedback by going into my inbox and finding emails to the seller with the link to my purchase. For the sellers I confronted, they knew their pearls were not Tahitians and refunded my money immediately. They are counting on the consumer to not know the difference.

I also gave an explanation on why positive feedback was so important to these sellers. They get a discount if they stay above a certain percentage. Many of the sellers are the same seller with different ebay names. They also use the same photo (which is often a picture of a very nice real strand of Ts or ssps). When you leave a negative feedback, be sure you post that everything was negative so it affects their entire score. I heard that China pays for shipping outside of the country for sellers so anyone being charged shipping, that cost is going to the sellers.

Chinese sellers sell everything but the kitchen sink. They start out by selling small, super cheap items, usually around $1 or so. They will buy from each other to inflate their feedback scores quickly. As they get more feedback, they will start increasing the prices of some items and selling more expensive things. You can find the same picture of pearls being sold for $5 all the way up to a several hundred dollars if you have the time to browse through listings. It makes me cringe to see someone bought a fake strand for $500 (you can sometimes see a seller has three of an item and one has sold).

I really do think the fraud on ebay regarding pearls and the pearl party scam is hurting the pearl industry and will hurt it even more unless something is done to educate the consumer that those ugly pearls are not what the pearl industry is all about. Nowadays, when I'm looking on ebay, my search consists of domestic, preowned items only. I love vintage clasps and settings. By keeping my search requirements narrow, I don't get as much trash as I used to. I still do see a lot of misrepresented pearls though. A lot! And some are by so called jewelers or families with ties in China who are selling massive amounts of pearls from home in every category on ebay in hopes of getting people who don't know the difference between a nice akoya strand and a fwp strand.
Amti - Really interesting ! Your comment about the shipping explains a lot...I always wondered how the Chinese sellers can all ship so cheaply. They ship 3$ items for free... I can't send anything out of Australia for less than 15.00 and generally even tiny items are 23.00 . Which is why I don't sell from ETSY outside of Australia. For lower priced items it's not worth it. Only the more expensive items-like pearls-that I don't put on ETSY, can be sent overseas without the cost being a factor.
Amti, I am pretty sure that you were the inspiration for the expose'. :)
Awesome to see this info again, GemGeek ... thanks!

Rule if its new & called tahitian or south sea & its under $100 or ridilculously then beware. Still does not mean its genuine even if they charge alot but you lose more. I guess thes Chinese could be lied too & told the pearls are not what they really are but if they are showing genuine nice pearls & sending the junk then there is fraud rught there. Trouble is some 2nd hand are not aware. 3rd pearls are sort of hard to tell from pics but those pics of much of what was sold were awful!

I steer clear of china but sometimes they are getting tricky with a US address with chinese or other foreign ties.

I guess if I called someone out & it was a decent purchase & I ended up paying a fair amount in the end I would not give negative feedback unless I really thought they were out to cheat & it was not just a mistake or poor knowledge.

Its hard to argue with the south sea claims. My last 2 purchases were vintage jewelry claiming to be south sea pearls.

I got a decent refund on the white pearls as the gold content was not marked & was 14 not 18K. I really should give not as described on gold & pearls but I won;t. I guess thats how sellers keep there 100 +. Not describing correct metal content I find serious.

Now I'm still stuck on a chipped maybe south sea pearl or yellow akoya that was 1mm smaller than stated at least 10mm& platinum that may not be but still tests 18K but does not seem to I'm really stuck but if I keep acid testing it the post will get smaller & smaller.
It does make not sense to get a $85 appraisal on a low value difference.

I might just send that thru ebay. She wanted to give me $20 back because the pearls were smaller. 1mm is huge. She also would take it back but I can't do that now as I dropped one &it chipped. Even metal content aside a 9.1mm pearl compared to a 10.1mm pearl value is more than $20 difference. Not my fault she did not measure them & was going on what she was told from an estate sale. She is playing dumb & I was falling for it but she has sold on ebay for over 10 years so she must know to measure things. I am dumb to fall for a SS gold pearl of at least 10mm...thats a red flag too but I guess I thought it was 10.1 mm or so & they were rounding it! Never would expect them to be 9 to 9.1mm.

I only buy vintage from private or shops...
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Amti, I am pretty sure that you were the inspiration for the expose'. :)

That's a flattering thought but this deception has been going on a lot longer than when I posted. When I made my purchases, I did not think for a minute I'd be getting a top quality pearl for the prices paid. It was more or less an experiment and became more of a revenge frame of mind once I got ugly pearls. It was infuriating when the seller's response was to refund my money and let me keep the pearls. There was no questioning on the pearls' origins. They knew what they were doing.

It is sickening how much deception there is on ebay, not only for pearls, but many other items. Ebay has a strong business relationship with China so they allow Chinese sellers to get away with much more than US sellers. I could not believe that ebay paid me out of their pocket to refund the necklace with a fake gold clasp after I filed a claim for a fake item and the seller did not take action. They would never do that with a US seller. Instead, they would remove the funds directly from the seller's paypal, so US sellers are required to respond. A big chunk of ebay's revenue comes from Chinese sellers, as do their listings. If you read through the seller comments on the ebay forum, you'll read post after post from US sellers getting fed up with ebay and how things are not selling. They all hate the Chinese sellers and when a buyer comments about being scammed by fake jewels or coins, they is zero sympathy.

I used to sell children's clothes on ebay when my kids were younger and was invited to be a power seller. I ran anywhere from 20-60 auctions a week. I don't know if I want to sell on ebay anymore after reading all the negative posts by sellers. Ebay takes buyer's words over seller's words, thus making it hard for sellers when they get a buyer who is a con artist or unreasonable. It is really a place for educated buyers now.

Camelot, I agree on the SSPs. I can't always tell a ssp from a really good quality edison or a large akoya. Many times, photos are bad, and sometimes I wonder if they are poor quality pictures on purpose. Why would someone pay $2000 for a pearl necklace that they can't see well because the picture is too blurry, the lighting is too dark, there are not closeups and the item is so tiny, the white balance is off, etc...?
I'm not a pearl expert but I have had lots of jewelry experience. Selling in ebay...well I do just to get some $ to buy other things. No real profit
& there are those chances you will lose shipping & have to return something as a buyer did not like it or else they could ruin your rating.
Once I had someone take a diamond & reset it & then decide she did not like it & had it reset. Thats alot of wear on the pronngs of a setting & there was nothing wrong with the diamond it was very nice H SI...not sure what she expected..Anyway I had to reset it so I had it made into an earring & sold it that way as it was a smallish approx ,25 to ,30 set in 14 K white gold for $100 & she was not happy! Why did she buy a white gold pendant only to get it in yellow gold not like that & then ask to return it!!!! I gave up selling for a few years. Still all in all I have sold quite alot over the last 15 years & luckily most of the buyers were good. As a buyer I am happy ebay is on my side as I trust the stuff sell but not so much when you buy,

I think my gold/cream/yellow pearls may be south sea & I'm leaning on burma. Then again could be large yellow akoya...Guess I need to soak them off...Guess they are mine but I need to fight the price on the small pearl size.

Found these gold south sea burma from Druzy...looking in the drill hole looks like the small outer layer is nacre...It changes & gets more opaque & I'm not sure if that is the bead of why if thats nacre it changed. If the outer line is nacre then these 9mm approx are barely .5mm nacre which is not that much for a south sea???


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I thoroughly enjoyed reading that presentation with all the shopping photos, thank you!))

I'm don't know about chinese government sponsoring the shipping costs, but I assume "free shipping" claim could be based on pure hope that people would normally order for more than 30 quid. For example, at some point Asos (a British-based huuuuuge online clothes store) used to ship any item anywhere in the world for free. But people were still ordering in bigger quantities to optimise the custom processing costs)) then people got used to it and indeed started ordering tiny things in separate parcels, without consolidating (I just this tendency by myself and a few of my friends, which is not quite representative of course but all same). And soon there appeared a clause "free shipping on anything for 25 pounds or up". So it could be this game as well.. or, Katbran, I suppose you could simply be packaging much much better than Chinese.. when I ship something the boxes and protections weight five times as much as the pearls :D but Chinese do not really bother - I've received some pearls just in a plastic bag in the paper envelope, without even bubble layer protection))

I wonder about when Chinese sell tahitian pearls that are indeed tahitians, but could be treated? I mean WenPearls on etsy sells tahitian pearls that are tahitians, but all the strands I've got have same same - i repeat, SAME - grade of luster. No variation. Doesn't matter if it's 3A or 2A (her shop grade), or ho blemished the pearl is. And from the beginning, from the first strand I've received, the luster looked good but different to my other tahitians from more reputable sellers. Is there any chance they actually buy tahitians that were rejected for poor luster performance and then somehow improve it? I would suspect something like tumbler polishing, but I don't know whether there are known facts of applying it to tahitians at all?.. And whether this is fraud or not?..
Why did she buy a white gold pendant only to get it in yellow gold not like that & then ask to return it!!!!
I suppose as soon as the original product shipped was modified by the client (i.e. diamond taken out of its original setting), it's by default non-returnable and Ebay would support you on that for sure.. Even if the client then sets it back in its original setting but you can see the prongs were weakened or modified - still non-returnable, no?
Yeah but she could file a negative & ruin my 100 ratiing & ebay might not remove feedback even if she did "damage" it & I was under no obligation to take it back..
Blaire. Thanks for posting your Ruckus 2016 presentation. It was very enlightening, and good to see it out on the Internet where more people can be educated by it.
This was absolutely the best presentation on the subject, Blaire. I had heard about it from Newberry but missed it, unfortunately.