Questions About Oyster Opening Pearl Parties.

Lagoon Island Pearls

Well-known member
Dec 8, 2009
There has been a flood of requests coming into this forum about this latest fad on social media.

The oysters and pearls being bought and sold in this manner are a multi-level marketing sham.

How long has this been happening?

In history, these pick-a-pearl outlets have been around for decades, mainly targeting tourists at kiosks in high traffic areas. In recent times, a number of companies have targeted individuals under a pyramid style scheme.

Are these pearls genuine?

Yes, but their origin is grossly misrepresented. They are previously harvested from freshwater operations in China. These pearls are re-mass produced by inserting them into one year old akoya oysters, then deceptively marketed as saltwater pearls.

What are the values of these pearls?

The pearls are worth less than a dollar, many merely a few cents and some may have no value at all. Manufacturers add value by dying them and artificially placing them in hatchery reared saltwater oysters, then selling them to distributors who deliberately mislead unsuspecting individuals to resell to gullible or vulnerable buyers under the guise of bargains and mysteriousness. These are almost always mounted to inferior quality, even shoddy trinkets which are also grossly over-valued if not entirely misrepresented for their metal content. The greater number of individuals reselling these are not pearl experts, nor jewelers. The appraisal sheets they've been instructed to quote from are outright fraudulent.

Is watching a pearl opening a learning experience?

If one considers a carnival side show with allure of winning a big teddy bear, then sure, but most would consider those as shamelessly fixed venues. P. T. Barnum said it best "a sucker is born every minute".

Finding an artificially planted pearl in a foreign host is not an experience to be cherished nor a discerning marketing choice. It's a gamble, where odds are greatly stacked for increased returns to the upper levels of the pyramid. The markup is more than 1000% of otherwise widely available pearls. Aside from this, the likelihood of finding a match (ear studs, for example) is infinitesimal, if not outrageously expensive. It would cost hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars to match a pair of earring that could easily be purchased from a reputable dealer for a substantially lesser cost.

Are these oysters safe to handle or eat?

No they are not. The chemicals used to preserve these oysters has not been adequately disclosed. The distributors claim they are preserved in "edible alcohol", but that likely means ethanol which becomes toxic when used to treat dead tissues, borne of polluted or otherwise unmonitored water quality. Because of this wilful lack of disclosure and overall dubious nature of the industry, there is growing suspicion these oysters are treated in highly toxic compounds such as formalin or brominated solutions. Alcohol diluted with water is NOT sufficient to preserve tissues in the absence of refrigeration. It is illegal in North America and many parts of Europe to ship ethanol by mail or courier without proper accompanying documentation.

The greater number of party hosts wear no barrier protection at all. They eat and drink or touch hair and other bodily parts without adequate washing after handling. What's worse? Allowing children to handle these. Not only does it risk toxic exposure, it instills and perpetuates behavior in dishonest ways, though not always deliberate or knowingly. Mainly because the distributors of these oysters do not provide adequate training in safe handling, nor material safety data sheets (MSDS) as required by occupational health authorities in many countries.

If not properly disposed, these oysters may sicken or kill pets and other animals.

Is it possible to acquire oysters from otherwise legitimate pearl farmers?

No it is not. Pearl farmers are not in any position to compete with charlatans. Most farms have strict regulations prohibiting relaying oysters to unspecified areas by any means. Most countries insist all remaining shells be returned to the waters of the immediate area of harvest. Hatchery rearing oysters for a farm is a risky, labor intensive and very expensive undertaking. These may take as long as three years before even becoming a candidate for the process. Oysters harvested from the wild are gathered by professional divers, who often work in dangerous conditions and expect a fair return for their catches. Oysters selected for implants are operated upon by highly skilled technicians who work with the deftness and knowledge of surgeons. They often use highly nuanced, proprietary techniques which are non-patented or site specific methods. These methods may be co-opted by unscrupulous competitors. The grow out period of grafted oysters is one to three years. Not every oyster yields a quality gem. In fact, most are low value or entirely worthless. Only a small percentage of any crop will fetch a premium. This is the bread and butter and the basis of survival in a highly risky venture.

Anyone with two hands and one good eye in a sweat shop situation can fake a pearl bearing oyster.

Why are treatments and pearl origins not disclosed to consumers?

Simply put, if these were widely known they're would be no business. Instead of advancing pearl education and ethical practices, they're deliberately avoided. Instead, an onus is put upon the willful ignorance and social networking skills of unsuspecting, yet motivated party hosts.
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Great idea! I hope this reaches many people looking for information on this scam.
Not sure if this belongs, but the Chinese consumer protection is pretty flaky. Researchers in Japan have found cardboard in pot stickers imported from China, lots of fresh veggies watered with body waste, lead in children's toys, plastic ware and many other household goods made for export to other countries, including the US. News of items tainted with lead from China made headlines in the states many times with numerous recalls. If this is something with no safety check or independent third party investigation on chemicals used, definitely, buyer beware.
I'm sticking this thread so it can be easily found by newcomers to the forum, since we've been getting so many questions about these oysters lately.
Dear Dave
Thank you for this thoughtful and through expose!
This is awesome, Dave. We can now refer folks who come to the forum for advice on this activity directly to this post.

Perhaps we should add links to the other relevant threads?
Well done Dave! And such a good idea to sticky the thread and then link references.
Is it okay if I direct back to this thread from the Pearl Party Scam Facebook page?
Thank you for setting up that Facebook page, moneymeister!
You're welcome.
I am looking for a couple of things to help on a post:
I would love a picture of a freshwater oyster to show folks what a real freshwater looks like and how plentiful the pearls really are.
Also would like a photo of FW pearls that show colors, if anyone has this laying around I could use. Thanks in advance.
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