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.

Ah yes, I remember now. I had a piece of that presentation!

The farms in China are freshwater pearl farms. Pearls are always processed and this is done in massive processing factories. Pearls are an agricultural crop in China and are sold to these processing factories by weight or while still in their shells. Most small, family-run farms produce just a few kilos - nowhere near enough to match a single pair of perfect earrings let alone a strand.

Every pearl dealer in China claiming they are farmers and original wholesalers is lying. Even those selling freshwater pearls. Those making the same claims about akoya, Tahitian and South Sea have almost certainly never even met someone who farms those types of pearls.
Thanks, Jeremy! I was able to add your text at the end to complete the story. :)
Not to be TOO contrarian, but caveat emptor has been guidance for shoppers for a long time. Anyone considering spending $500 or more on a product they know nothing about, has access to knowledge and experience about that product at the instant of a google query on their phone. (back in my day we drove to the library.). When I was researching pearls, Pearl-Guide came up quite frequently.

For a few things I've purchased on ebay, I've even asked the seller if they will indeed accept a return from me if I don't think it is authentic. Several sellers have been wonderful about that. If they take an item back, I offer to cover their ebay fees ( though none have accepted that).


Edited to add: I am delighted that Pearl-Guide shows up often in searches, and having this presentation online here now should really help in educating consumers.
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I sent a message with a link to this story to the eBay newsroom and actually got a response. At first I thought there might be a chance ... maybe there was someone at eBay who cared that there was such rampant fraud going on. This is our communication.

Btw, I encourage anyone and everyone to let eBay know what they think about the fraud. It's super simple if you have a Facebook account:

It would be big of eBay to do something about this rampant fraud. You have to be aware more than 99% of the pearl jewelry listing on eBay are fraudulent and millions of people have already gotten ripped off.

Someone named Lyndsey responded in a seemingly sincere message.

Hi, jeremy. We absolutely don't allow a listing to advertise the item as something that it's not. If you find pearl listings that are saying they're real when they aren't, we ask that you report them right away to us through the "Report item" link in the listing. This will send the item directly to our Policy Team to review and to take immediate action. I also appreciate you bringing that article to our attention; I've passed that along too. Thanks, ~Lyndsey

Lyndsey,The problem is, there are thousands and thousands of these fraudulent listings on eBay and the sellers have learned (as Pearl-Guide reported in the article) exactly how to keep people from posting true negative feedback - they just let them keep the pearls.Very close to, if not actually, 100% of the listings coming from China for Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls are fraudulent. They are all either shell pearls (fake) or freshwater pearls misrepresented.It's been common knowledge within the industry, and discussed on the Pearl-Guide forum for more than 10 years, that nearly all pearl listing on eBay are fraudulent - with sellers from China, that number is very close to 100%.

But then Veronica responded with quite a bit less sincerity. If she is Lyndsey's manager or a "higher up" in the newsroom, I think they already know and don't care.

Thanks for expanding on that. It is very important to us to maintain a trustworthy marketplace. All jewelry on eBay should be accurately described and listed in an appropriate category. Our policy is based upon guidelines issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and is designed to help sellers list in compliance with those guidelines. However, sellers should also review FTC guidelines and make sure their listing follows these guidelines. We work hard to proactively enforce this, but if you identify a violation, you can report it to us like Lyndsey mentioned. Buyers are also protected by our Money Back Guarantee if they receive an item that is not as described. Here’s more on our guidelines: Thank you for helping us keep our site safe. ~Veronica

I responded and this was on July 27th, nearly two weeks ago.

This is where it seems very disingenuous. If eBay were to do something about this problem, it would make trade publication headlines and garner so much respect. But your response, "our policy is based upon FTC guidelines" shows me how disingenuous eBay truly is.According the the FTC, it is unfair and deceptive to described cultured pearls as "natural." If a jewelry company were to describe their pearls as natural and sell thousands of pieces, they would likely be subject to both civil litigation and possible fines.

I just did a search on eBay for natural pearl necklace. It yielded 42,232 results this morning, almost all of which come from China. Out of those 42,232 listings, at least 42,000 of them break US law.That is just one example. So what is the point of eBay having a policy if there is absolutely no enforcement? Are you relying on industry professionals like me to go in and report auctions one by one, tens of thousands of them at a time?

There has been no response since. In my opinion, eBay doesn't want to discuss it. They have thousands of sellers actively engaged in obvious, provable fraud yet it isn't their problem.
ebay has struggled for years with fake designer handbags. They were sued by LVMH and Tiffany and others; the litigation went on for years. An announcement came out last January:

"The company will use a network of brand experts to verify that a Chanel handbag listed on the marketplace, for instance, is real. Sellers can pay for the authentication service to win the confidence of shoppers, or shoppers can pay for the service with EBay’s pledge that the sale will be nullified if the item is fake. Fees have yet to be determined, the San Jose, California-based company said Thursday in a statement announcing the service."

related articles:
Ebay has too much to lose by going after all the Chinese sellers. There has been numerous discussions about it on the ebay forums by the US sellers who are hating the competition and turnoff of buyers from the international fake merchandise sellers on ebay. A good portion of the sales on ebay are from the Chinese market. You'll see several sellers with the same photos selling the same items at different prices under different names. It is a game for them and ebay cannot keep up and no longer cares. Ebay stepped in to refund my money when a 14kt marked gold clasp from China did not pass the acid test and the seller did not respond to my dispute. Ebay paid me back out of their own pocket, not the seller! The seller is still selling today, racking up negatives and as long as they're whipping out hundreds of auctions a day, ebay isn't going to take action. One of the Chinese sellers who sold me a pearl that was not the same in the picture said that he cannot post pictures of each pearl he sells because he has 300 new listings a day. I got my money back from him on all the pearls I bought from him, but they were freshwaters, and really cheap ones. It's really an unethical game to "them" about making money and not caring about people getting scammed.... and "them" is both ebay and the Chinese sellers.