TRADE ALERT re Non-Beaded Saltwater ('new keshi') Pearls

SteveM

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Jan 29, 2007
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A circular received today from the Swiss Gemmological Institute that appears to be quite a bit more than routine. This follows an interesting lead-in article on Micro X-Ray tomography (CT Scanning) in SSEF's January Facette.

LINK to SSEF Newsletter updated May 12 (click 'Trade Alert' at bottom of page).

Dear Reader,
Dear Client

The Swiss Gemmological Insititute SSEF has been receiving large quantities of saltwater pearls for certification in recent weeks. These pearls are generally characterised by an almost perfect appearance. The pearls are often accompanied with reports describing them as natural pearls, but their appearance has raised doubt amongst many natural pearl dealers.

These pearls were tested with the most advanced forms of technology, including X-ray radiography, X-ray luminescence, X-ray micro tomography and radiocarbon age dating, and many were actually identified as beadless cultured pearls. Although these beadless cultured pearls do not show one distinct feature that explicitly characterises them as cultured, it is a combination of internal and external structures, which enable conclusive indentification of this material.

The arrival of large quantities of these ?new? saltwater pearls, whose quality is far better than that of many natural pearls treasured since centuries, represents a great danger to the natural pearl market. Following the sudden increase of this material on the market, the SSEF has taken a number of measures to protect the natural pearl trade. The SSEF has adapted its pearl certification policy and is collaboratively promoting transparent standards at an international level. A important step is the use of more rigorous and specified definitions for natural and cultured pearls. A natural pearl is a pearl which formed in a wild oyster (mussel) which is living in its natural habitat. It formed without any human intervention. Any pearl stemming from a pearl cultivation farm is a cultured pearl.

Yours sincerely
Dr. Michael S. Krzemnicki

Director
Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF
 
Remember about a year ago Tom had some pearls tested and the report said they were salt water cultured without a bead. I commented on that and asked where they were coming from etc. I think Tom is getting all his from around the Sulu sea, anyway near Sulu, but it was the peasants who were bringing them in. Curiouser and curiouser.

Good to have some clarification. This is a story I am watching for further developments.
 
"These pearls are generally characterised by an almost perfect appearance"
I wonder if that means round, or unblemished surface, or both. I am incredulous about how this is achieved.
 
Very Very Interesting this is. Yes definitely, Curiouser and Curiouser. Looking to hear more about what is found.
 
"These pearls are generally characterised by an almost perfect appearance"
I wonder if that means round, or unblemished surface, or both. I am incredulous about how this is achieved.
SSEF's alert resulted from a relatively recent trend towards ever more perfect 'natural' pearls that defied historical percentages. By some means, that among the lots submitted were pearls previously certified as natural by other labs was made known to SSEF. This is the true source of the dilemma, as otherwise SSEF independently would have simply certified the pearls as cultured by default ('too perfect, too many'), without further ado. But they smelled something rotten in pearldom.

Regarding the perfection, think of Chinese Freshwater. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? CFWP in round, brilliant color and metallic luster can be obtained for a modest sum on every online pearl site of any merit. And to tremendous rounds of congratulatory applause. Yet CFWP do not have a bead?a modern-day miracle (I've heard it's all in the wrist; just the right twist during grafting).

Well, it appears they've learned "HOW TO DO THAT" in saltwater, too.
 
I really have mixed feelings about this.

I can see the risk to the natural pearl trade, of course, but how fantastic would it be to be able to buy cultured saltwater pearls of high quality that do not have a bead?

The bead is my chief objection to cultured saltwater pearls. Absent the bead, I would be much more interested in buying, providing they were honestly advertised as cultured.

(Note to self: Start saving now. :p )
 
The fact that there seems to be a "flood" of these "bead less" salt water pearls into Swiss and international laboratories is very interesting.. to me means that some where out there, a few sneaky pearl farmers with a lot of time on their hands and dollar signs in their eyes have indeed figured out how to produce round keshi pearls. (maybe they used tiny bubbles or balloons as nucleii?) Something that disintegrates or the walls of which become invisible under testing.

Just for a minute imagine yourself in the middle of the ocean (maybe in a third world country) and some one tells you that if you can "certify" this pearl as natural.. it is all of a sudden worth thousands of dollars, as opposed to a few dollars. I promise you will try your hand at it!

It is an unspoken fact that thousands of keshi pearls (old or "new") have been laboratory certified as being natural pearls. The demand is just too alluring. (and the influence that some natural pearl dealers have pushed on laboratories too great). In short when there is that much money hinging on the "cert" for a perfect "natural" 14mm drop pearl. Some one is going to budge!

But really... IS THIS A REVELATION?
"A natural pearl is a pearl which formed in a wild oyster (mussel) which is living in its natural habitat. It formed without any human intervention. Any pearl stemming from a pearl cultivation farm is a cultured pearl."


I was under the impression that this was ALREADY THE RULE OF THUMB!
There are issues with this though because there are plenty of animals happily living in the wild, while in other places these same species are being used to culture pearls. So proving that the waters from which each animal was plucked were in fact free of any pearl farming activity is like asking each fisherman to bring a video camera, a caliper and a few reliable witnesses with him everyday... just in case.

This issue is one that makes my skin crawl. I have seen my fair share of natural pearls (both real and "man-made").... and unfortunately I have also seen my fair share of certified "natural pearls" both bought and sold that were definitely keshi pearls of nearly every variety.
 
Does this not highlight also that the lab certificates are not really totally valid..if the only real criterion they seem to have for not certifying a shoal of pearls as natural is that there are too many....
that's not very scientific
 
The fact that there seems to be a "flood" of these "bead less" salt water pearls into Swiss and international laboratories is very interesting.
Yes, I take SSEF's exceptional communication as an indication that they are seeing a recent, increasing and very concerted effort. Certainly keshi are nothing new, that they should be produced in more regular shapes and with more consistent density is good news for the consumer, provided their continuing production would be merited at something far less than natural pricing.

At least saltwater mollusks still tend to be limited to one pearl per shell.
 
the labs and the euipments cannot be 100% percent right...for differentiating naturals from keshi or non beaded culture i guess experience and good knowledge of pearls would be more important rather then certs...
with such cases happenin i fear the certificates just being a mere piece of paper...it will hamper the natural pearl trade in such cases..
for saving the natural pearl trade we all should unite again like the dubai conference and think for a solution...
 
I really have mixed feelings about this.

I can see the risk to the natural pearl trade, of course, but how fantastic would it be to be able to buy cultured saltwater pearls of high quality that do not have a bead?

The bead is my chief objection to cultured saltwater pearls. Absent the bead, I would be much more interested in buying, providing they were honestly advertised as cultured.

(Note to self: Start saving now. :p )

I am in total agreement with this. Why not produce non-beaded salt water pearls? I would think it would take much longer for them to grow, so I don't think it would be a money-saving gesture, just a way to supply those who are not satisfied with the pearl-plated beads. Since most of the natural pearls being found nowadays are small and off-shaped, this opens up a whole new world. If I had the money, I would pay more for the un-beaded cultured pearls than for the beaded ones.

Since natural pearls from yore are rarely round, even the Baroda pearls are not round, nor Wallis Simpson's giant necklace - being too round seems like a good criteria. It is statistically improbable to have any round ones, let alone a lot of them. If you just look through the thousands of natural pearls on this site, You will hardly see a round one among them. Some of Tom's are round- and he was one of the ones that got told some of his were beadless cultured.

So, I would not pay natural prices for super round "natural" pearls at this point.

My rule of thumb for this situation is, if it is round, it is not natural.

Now this reminds me of the 1920's era "tissue cultured" Mikimoto belonging to the Rana of Frogvillle, but those reflections belong on a different thread.
 
I just don't know why they spend so much time trying to destroy my nuclei business. You don't suppose it's personal do you? :eek:
 
That's funny at first glance, poignant at the second. These are supposed to be keshi, so they probably rarely ever had a bead.

Since my last post, I remembered that Sarah(?) mentioned that huge international auction houses often sell keshi as natural pearls. So this is a natural expansion of something already going on. It is a little scam going big-time, even as we watch!

Does anyone dare take on the auction houses about this? If I ever saw a Pearl Professor Story.......... Where is he when you need him? Not that he has ever paid the slightest attention to this forum, but it is time for a new story over there. Some skinny is needed, even if it is off site. please.
 
I am in total agreement with this. Why not produce non-beaded salt water pearls? I would think it would take much longer for them to grow, so I don't think it would be a money-saving gesture, just a way to supply those who are not satisfied with the pearl-plated beads. Since most of the natural pearls being found nowadays are small and off-shaped, this opens up a whole new world. If I had the money, I would pay more for the un-beaded cultured pearls than for the beaded ones.

I agree with Caitlin totally. I would love a strand of round pearls with the quality of keshi pearls, but not at the price of naturals. I have no idea what one of these strands should be fairly priced at. As cultured, but no bead, strands. They must be very beautiful and I for one would love to have them.

Just need the growers that have perfected this will put them on the market as such, well eventually. And maybe they will as more and more pearl buyers become aware that they can easily be fooled into paying whatever it is they are paying for them now and just stop buying. Then the growers could turn to honest market practices. They do deserve a good price regardless for this pearl invention.

I think it is the biggest thing since Mikimoto first started but much improved.

Dawn
eBay ID dawncee333
 
This "little" scam has been going on for quite a long time! Just that when the stakes get higher.. people go to further lengths!

In the last year I have heard on several occasions from on line customers... and here on the forum as well : That some people prefer to have a non nucleated, tissue nucleated cultured pearl to a cultured pearl with a bead nucleus. Especially in a pearl of a larger size this puzzles me. I understand the appreciation for "purity".. but in my opinion a large bead nucleated pearl has a longer "shelf life" than the same size keshi (or natural pearl). As large size keshi pearls often have "gas pockets", and natural pearls (will be expensive and could come with the same issue). This is something I do not understand. Why do people not like the "bead"?.. it's shell (here's to you Mikeyy!), it gives the pearl stability and it is much more cost effective in achieving size! (and also while I am on this tangent)... Where did this notion come from?
Caitlin... Please help me here!
 
I understand the appreciation for "purity".. but in my opinion a large bead nucleated pearl has a longer "shelf life" than the same size keshi (or natural pearl). As large size keshi pearls often have "gas pockets", and natural pearls (will be expensive and could come with the same issue). This is something I do not understand. Why do people not like the "bead"?.. it's shell (here's to you Mikeyy!), it gives the pearl stability and it is much more cost effective in achieving size! (and also while I am on this tangent)... Where did this notion come from?
Caitlin... Please help me here!
CFWP are invariably sold with the argument that being all-nacre they will have a better shelf life than cultured pearls, as wear will never expose a (non-nacreous) bead.

I've taken pains here to dampen enthusiasm for keshis per se, with links to X-Rays by SSEF and others. Once I insisted on a pair of keshi cufflinks, fortunately the jeweler was a friend and said he'd never do it.
 
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When I first got here, cheap akoyas were all the rage. (Not here on this forum, but everywhere else) Hardly anyone was buying Tahitians or SSP at the time. With the akoyas, one could get a strand that had a micro-thin layer of nacre for a really cheap price. Thing was they peeled in just a few months or dried and cracked off the bead.

I came here knowing nothing about pearls except the prejudice my family raised me with- cultured pearls were fake pearls. Not only that, my husband's family were deep into the cultured akoyas and bought strands from the 1930's to the 50's. When MiL died in 2004 or so, most of her ropes had cracked and chipped skins, even thought they were very fine (expensive) pearls when new. That gave me a time frame of 60 years wear out time for even good quality akoyas. These pearls were worn a lot, if not everyday. They were not in great shape and it was hard to find replacement pearls in matching colors and they were very thin-skinned.

Not only were the Cultured Freshwater pearls (CFWP) solid nacre, they looked more like real pearls, rarely being round. I started stating my preference early on. I either influenced others or they already agreed. One of the loudest supporters of natural pearls over cultured was the Rana of Frogville. If people were not convinced by me, they certainly were by the Z-ster. She actually introduced the forum to the term "pearl-plated beads" and used it often in the 11 months she posted here. Since it was a description of the akoyas so commonly available then- it was perfect. Well, the Rana left under a cloud- she had actually sold some of her CFWP as Placuna imbricata, siberian trans-grafts, pteria sterna and several other false terms. That is fraud, folks, and she fell swiftly out of favor leaving only her 2,000 boastful, snotty and lying posts to speak for her. I managed to discard 500 of them, but that still leaves, 1,500 posts of her braggadocio!

Since she left, Tahitians have risen swiftly. They were pretty much guaranteed to have much thicker nacre. So did the SSP. They might wear out, but it would take far longer than the akoyas because their dip into the pearl oyster was more than twice as thick as the average akoya, 4x as thick as the cheapest akoya.

I have mostly mellowed out regarding the Tahitians and the SSP and vendors here only grow and/or buy thicker-nacre on the akoyas. Some pearls, like the Kasumi and the Sea of Cortez are virtually unobtainable without beads. The economics make beaded pearls available in much less time and at far lower prices.

Still, at the bottom of my heart, I love my antique natural p radiatas. They are small, 1/2mm up to 7mm. about 8" of them are very round for natural pearls. They have a lot of iridescence, more than any akoyas I have seen. There are places of wear where they were not knotted for years, but the wear just reveals many micro-thin layers of nacre that increase the iridescence.

I went through a klonk stage- who doesn't? (Klonks=12mm plus) But now I am back to preferring strands of 7mm and less. The CFWPearls have a higher percentage of best the most perfect when they are in the 5-7mm range and they are not all that much in demand compared to their rarity, as the larger ones are.

Just since I joined here, the techniques in producing cultured pearls have advanced an exponential amount. The colors are deeper and more varied. Freshwater pearls, esp. are producing commercial numbers of round pearls with incredible luster and colors, virtually perfect skins.Techniques have improved for producing tissue nucleating and bead nuking- or even mud nuking. I must expand my vision of what pearls are and where they can go. And also keep an eye on the salt-water production of tissue-nuked round pearls or keshi passing as natural pearls.
 
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