Pearlescence – Trip to Hong Kong

Pearlescence – Trip to Hong Kong


Buying pearls is easy…you can just throw money. But the only way to find the pearls with the metallic lustre is to go to the wholesalers and select them yourself.

Which is why I made the long trip to Hong Kong for the second time this year to find those elusive super-shiny pearls.

I always aim to get to Hong Kong – actually to Kowloon – a few days before the show starts so I can go to the suppliers’ offices. It’s more relaxed and I can delve and find the best pearls

A typical suppliers office will have white tables and shelving all around the walls, with the shelving crammed with huge bags of pearls of every shape, size, colour and quality.

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This trip I was thinking mostly of singles and pairs, half drilled and undrilled for earrings, rings and pendants. So one visit produced these two cards and a couple of bags of pearls.

There are two price streams. Kilo weight and selection. Kilo weight is when you take a whole hank, or lot or a scoop. Selection is when you – obviously – select each pearl. The price is higher per piece since you are cherry picking out of a lot and the value of the rest of the lot is diminished.

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Add in the bartering over price and these things can take time. I do enjoy sitting quietly with a big tub of single pearls and matching them into pairs. Indeed I think it is just one of those things that we buyers just do. It could be a sort of professional test. Dump a lot of single pearls and see who automatically sorts out pairs!

I also stocked up on classic white round AAA metallic strands with an eye on Christmas. When you have a hank of 20 strands, all AAA grade, you can simply buy that lot or select out the metallics, pay a bit more but have the perfect pearls. I am a lustre tart. It has to be metallic these days or I’m not interested. How quality has improved in the last ten years.

I also spent some time finding good white round pairs. This quick photo shows it isn’t as easy as a lay person might think. There are so many different whites, different overtones, grades of lustre and simple size….

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Normally I concentrate on freshwaters, but this year I seem to have come back with a lot more south sea and akoya.

The south sea got me at the wholesalers. Some stunning strands in terms of colour, size and lustre but off-round and with some flaws, therefore bargains.

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These two strands – already sold – are 12mm to 17mm. Wowser!  There was a big shortage of singles in gold south seas – just a few small bags. I took the photo below to show the colours of the dyed south sea. There are a lot of dyed SS about, but they all have a sort of ear-wax look to the colour. They just haven’t got the dye process right yet. Same with the dyed freshwaters – there were a lot of dyed bead nucleated freshwaters pretending to be gold south sea pearls. Look good as singles but in a tray..ear wax yellow.

Give it a couple of years though, and premium south sea producers could be in trouble.

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It can be a bit overwhelming at first when faced with trays of pearls on offer – these are all south sea pearls, and this is just at one office. When it gets to the show proper and there are 50 stands all with displays like this…phew

And then the show proper, out near Hong Kong Airport. This venue has half the whole event, and this photo shows one of 25 aisles in the pearl hall which was one of 15 halls. It is a big show!

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Freshwater sales were slow, while the akoya and south sea section was pretty busy. I fell for some intense blue grey akoya strands

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And then passed the time making some baroque pairs to go with. Also found a couple of strands of natural gold akoya – very pale gold. (The deep gold ones are dyed)

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Finally..back to look at some big bead nucleated pearls

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find some pairs and pass on this strand which was $10k , because, although it looks purple, there is a distinct brown cast to the colour

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Last of all , some intensely metallic buttons

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Ten days of hard work – really!

Thank you to Wendy for this amazing and informative blog. We look forward to lots more.