Pearls Farming : Selling pearls and pearl products
Most farmers sell pearls directly to buyers, who will often attend the harvest, particularly if the harvest is a large one or many farmers are participating. The buyer will want to grade the pearls, meaning evaluate the quality of each pearl. The farmer can also market his pearls directly to jewelers or wholesalers, but this requires travel and a good knowledge of pearl grading and pricing.
Pearls are usually sold as lots, although individual pearls may also be sold. A harvest will usually be divided into lots of pearls of similar size and quality. The buyer will then pay a set price for the entire lot. Some buyers will want to buy only individual pearls that are large or of particularly high quality. If the best pearls are removed from the lot, it may be difficult to sell the remaining pearls since there will be fewer choice pearls to tempt the buyer. Until a farmer has a good knowledge of pearl grading and marketing, it will generally be advantageous to sell the pearls in lots.
The quality and price of a pearl depends on several factors: size, shape, luster, color, orient and texture. A “good” or “high” quality pearl is large, round, lustrous, smooth without flaws and possesses an iridescent quality.
Size is one of the main determinants of price.
Pearl sizes are measured by the diameter in millimeters. They may also be weighed in mommes (3.75 grams) or grams. Large pearls (over 12 mm) are much higher-priced than the smaller ones. For example, in 1992 the average price of a black pearl rated as fine, measuring 8 mm (0.32 in), was $285; while a 9-mm (0.36 in) pearl of the same quality was worth $385 – a difference of $100 for a 1-mm (0.6 in) increase in size. The next size pearl (10 mm or 0.4 in) was worth $560, an increase of $175 for a 1-mm (0.6 in) increase in size. This progressively greater difference in price continues as pearls get larger, explaining the reasons an experienced technician will be careful to use the largest size nucleus possible. Every millimeter difference in size can mean a substantial increase in price. Pearls harvested so early that the nacre layer is very thin, are not only smaller, but are also considered to be of lower quality because a thin nacre layer can easily crack. The luster and orient of thin nacre may also be of lesser quality. Your reputation as a pearl producer can suffer by attempting to sell pearls with thin nacre. A proper nacre layer should be at least 0.08-0.12 in (2-3 mm) thick, which takes approximately 18-24 months. Therefore, it is wise not to harvest too early.
“Black” pearls vary considerably in color.
Most pearls produced by Black-Lip pearl oysters will be dark gray or black with an iridescent quality. It is the iridescent colors of the pearl that increases its value. There should be undertones of blue, green, purple (eggplant) or silver. Predominantly blue-green colors with hints of other colors (the term “peacock” refers to having all colors present) are considered most valuable. Pearls are always examined and graded in natural sunlight so that the subtle colors can best be seen.
The color of the pearls grafted by a technician can tell you a lot about his or her skill. If a high percentage of the pearls are silver-white, yellow or orange, it may mean that the technician was not careful in selecting mantle tissue that produced the best nacre quality. Pearls of these colors have a much lower value than darker colors. However, even the best technicians will produce pearls with a wide variety of colors.
Pearl shapes are generally classified as round, semi-round, circlé, or baroque.
Round pearls are completely round on all sides, while semi-rounds may have slightly flattened or bulging surfaces. Round pearls will sell for the highest price and the number of round pearls produced by a technician is a sign of his or her skill. Baroque pearls are pearls with any shape other round and although not considered as high quality can still be valuable if of otherwise good quality. Circlés are the baroque pearls that have circular grooves running around the outside of the pearl.
The luster and orient of a pearl are classified by the way in which the surface of a pearl reflects light. A high quality pearl with good luster reflects light well, while a poor quality pearl is dull or chalky. The most lustrous pearls have a finish that is mirror-like. The orient refers to the way the light enters the semi-transparent nacre and is refracted outwards. This gives an appearance of depth to the pearl.
Pearls with thin nacre will usually be betrayed by poor luster and orient. The surface of a pearl should be smooth and without flaws. Pearls are often flawed with a variety of bumps, pits and spots that reduce its value. If there are only one or two small flaws that can be hidden when the pearl is made into jewelry, it still may be rated as a Grade A pearl, but more flaws will definitely reduce its grade.
The most important thing to understand about selling your pearls is that not all pearls can or will be sold. While a rating of “commercial” or “C+” is awarded to the lowest quality marketable pearl, often the majority of a farmer’s production cannot even meet this standard and thus cannot be sold. Therefore, since it takes only one mistake to ruin an otherwise perfect pearl, doing even the smallest tasks correctly is extremely important to the success of your business.
On average, the top 5% percent of pearls will earn 95% of a farmer’s income. Only 5-10% of pearls produced are considered high quality. This means that if you harvest 1,000 pearls, only 50-100 of those will fetch the highest prices. The rest may not sell for enough to produce a profit.
Pearl grading is a fine art, but obtaining a high price for your pearls depends on your knowledge of the basics. Do not depend on the pearl buyer to accurately grade your pearls, since this affects the price he will pay you. If possible, have an impartial, qualified person grade your pearls. You should also try to learn as much as possible about pearl grading and the ever-changing international market to ensure the accuracy of the grader.
You can also sell other pearl products such as mabe and various shell products. These might include jewelry made from polished shell, fishing lures, and other handicrafts that incorporate pieces of polished shell. Face cream made with scraps of nacre from pearl oyster shells can also be sold for a good price.
Article source: The Basic Methods of Pearl Farming, Author: A Layman’s ManualMaria Haws, Ph.D. (Director, Pearl Research and Training Program, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI 96720 USA, Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, Publication No. 127, March 2002)
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