Louis Kornitzer: The Pearl Trader


Well-known member
Jan 29, 2007
Pearl-Guide is without prior reference to this great book written in 1937 by the world?s preeminent natural pearl personality and trader of a bygone era. I post this in Natural Pearls because of its specific appeal as well as Kornitzer?s relevance to a resurging interest in naturals as evidenced by my participation here.

Tattered copies of the book may still be found at Amazon.com and other online sources.

Kornitzer was among many other things the first western trader to live and source pearls in the Sulu Archipelago (preceding Tom Stern by most of a century). Having just read the book on recommendation from Ken Scarratt of GIA, I am convinced it is the finest pearl book ever written, with the possible exception of Kunz?s The Book of the Pearl (the only work on pearls referenced by Kornitzer, and only for his chapters on pearl history).

The book is a treatise on natural pearls and pearls in general, written at a time when the impact of Japanese cultured pearls had begun to be felt by the trade. It is lively, witty and flowing with excellent location imagery.

Unbelievably, Kornitzer in 1937 already predicts the 2010 lab certification crisis caused by advances in non-beaded nacreous saltwater pearls:

I cannot see how mankind would be the gainer if fine pearls were as plentiful as blackberries and as cheap; but all the same, the day may dawn when man learns to provoke the pearl-oyster in such a manner that an artificial nucleus will become superfluous. By that time, no doubt, the oysters may be so well behaved that they will turn out nothing but the most perfect gems.

When that day comes, there will be no difference between the cultured pearl and the natural that is not to the advantage of the former. Shall I then?if I still exist?have become reconciled to the new order? I doubt it. There would undoubtedly occur in me one of those protracted and consuming inward struggles wherein reason armed with logic, the spirit of progress, and modernity, stand ranged against tradition, loyalty and romance.

In the end, no doubt, romance would win the day. For the last time I should gather around me my precious natural beauties that no one would buy. From their midst I would select a few of the fairest and dissolve them in vinegar. With all the recklessness of Egypt?s queen I would then swallow the no longer costly brew in one long delirious gulp, but not without first pouring a generous and despairing libation to Venus Margaretifera. And then? Then the moment would have arrived for me to erase the word "pearl" from all the books on my shelves and die.
Thanks for sharing Steve! I find Kornitzer's words both prophetic and nostalgic. Wish I could get my hands on a copy of his book.
Wish I could get my hands on a copy of his book.

Hmmm... trade book for pearls?!! Just kidding -- If you haven't read it by Tucson, you can borrow mine. I'd let you borrow it now, but I haven't read it yet. :cool:

Thank you for posting this! Another Pearl book to find... Yay!