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AKOYA Pearls Industry and Market Analysis

AKOYA Pearls Industry and Market Analysis

wholesale pearlsLet’s start with the JAPANESE AKOYA pearls, which have a hundred year long history. Pre-WWII production peaked out in 1938, with a recorded volume of 1 tonne. After the war, production resumed again in 1952. Soon after, it was declared an “Industry of National Importance”, shifting into overdrive, bringing in much needed foreign currency.

As we saw in a previous chart, Japan produced 600 million dollars worth of akoya just 16 years ago. Today, it is down to an estimated 65 million dollars (with high estimates at 70 million). Japan’s akoya production peaked out in 1966, with approximately 230 tonnes, and a market share of close to 100 percent (monopoly!). It never managed to recover. Today’s production, estimated at 12 to 15 tonnes, is just about 6% of what it was back in 1966.

sea pearls 3

Japan, the founding nation and the very pioneer of the cultured pearl, having run a monopoly for decades, seems to breath its last oxygen. Many must be asking WHY?

There are three reasons, listed by order of importance:

  1. First : COMPETITION (South Sea, Tahiti, FWP)
  2. Second : COST of production
  3. Third : POLLUTION of the sea (Some of my colleagues might also mention the “Image and Quality Problem”, a very controversial argument we don’t need to enter now).

Competition, only partially self-inflicted by the Japanese themselves, is by far the most responsible culprit. When consumers were offered an alternative to the akoya, they jumped on it!
sea pearls 4

The cost factor too, is very important. Like in any other Japanese export orientated industry, the exchange rate played a major role. During the first 25 years of akoya production after WWII, salaries were low, and one dollar bought 360 yen. Today, salaries and costs are high, and one dollar buys less than 100 yen. This costing problem coincided

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with the increased competition from pearls farmed abroad, with the result that the sustainability of the entire Japanese akoya pearl industry is now questionable. The problem of sea pollution also plays a certain role, but is of least importance. Today’s sea conditions are less favourable, thus adversely affecting the health and sturdiness of
the oysters. The much talked about productions of akoya pearls farmed by China, South Korea and Vietnam are usually over-rated and exaggerated. These productions never posed a serious threat to Japan. The stories around them were often far-fetched and inflated, and most of the time out of context. In many cases, they were the brainchild of sensational journalism.

The obvious question is: How will the future hold for Japan as a pearling nation? To answer this, one has to differentiate between:

Japan as:

  • the leading producer nation of akoya cultured pearls
  • the global Trading Centre for all kinds of pearls
  • a Pearl Consumer Nation.

As a Global Pearl Trading Centre, Japan is predestined to maintain its #1 position. Admittedly, more wholesale auctions are nowadays held in Hong Kong, than in Japan. But it is an undisputable fact that the largest buyers’ groups at those raw-material auctions are from Japan (Kobe and Ise). Only Japan can offer these key elements in one single basket:

  • Professionalism and Know-How
  • Capacity
  • Tradition
  • Reliability
  • International Customer Base

Don’t get us wrong; nothing against our pearling friends from HK and China. But when it comes to “sensibility, touch and passion” for our product, the Japanese, with their tradition and history, rank first. Another underlining fact in favour of Japan is its domestic market. Even though reduced, it still ranks among the very top in the world.

When it comes to the farming of akoya, the picture looks rather bleak. It is our belief that at least part of Japan’s akoya farmers will survive, because they are in the process of moving into a “Niche Business”. The remaining farms will be small in scale, kind of “Mom and Pop Operations”. Proud of their product and origin, some will be selling their pearls with a kind of “Appellation Controlée” label. They will be operating off the mainstream, selling a specialty, a one-of-akind, for which there will always be a demand. If you are a pearl dealer, you better grab it! Volumes are down, prices are reasonable, and one is getting good value for money!

Article source: Andy Müller, Kobe/Japan, as presented at the European Gemmological Symposium in Berne, Switzerland on June 5th, 2009
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Sea Water Cultured Pearls Industry (Sea Pearls)

Sea Pearls / Cultured Pearl Industry

wholesale pearlsSea pearls, think of Nature, Mystique, Emotions, Excitement, Beauty, Illusions and Dreams. Let us not destroy these dreams. But when we look at the production, and distribution, we are looking at the other side of the coin, which is the professional side.

We talk about a commodity. We talk about a highly competitive industry in a free market system, not based on illusions, emotions and dreams.We face complex problems in both production and marketing and talk hard facts such as economies of scale, market forces, market shares, imbalances between supply and demand resulting in price volatilities, stock management and rotation, cash-flow, return on investment, profit and loss insea pearls .

Within our sea pearls / Seawater Cultured Pearl Industry, we have witnessed the development of three different industries, working quite independently from each other. The “three industries within one industry” are basically separated by the different oyster species producing different sea pearls in different geographical locations:

  • Akoya is the sea pearls from the Pinctada fucata martensii oyster farmed in Japan (and minor production areas in China, Vietnam and Korea).
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  • South Sea Pearls from the black-lipped Pinctada margaritifera oyster farmed in French Polynesia (Tahiti) and other minor producing areas as later mentioned in this report.
  • South Sea Pearls (SSPs) from the white and gold-lipped Pinctada maxima oyster farmed in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar (and minor producing areas in Sabah and PNG).

The sea pearls basically run on different tracks. But when it comes to marine science and biology, farming methods, systems and techniques, these three industries often overlap. And they all face similar situations and problems when it comes to the marketing, where they are in direct competition.

The global sea pearls / Seawater cultured pearl industry is very small in relation to diamonds, or other industries employing over 10,000 people producing higher value merchandise. What comes as a surprise to most is that the global industry has dramatically shrunk in value over the past fifteen or sixteen years. We talk in terms of values ex sea pearls farm (the value the farmers are getting for their produce by selling it to the wholesale trade):

  • From an estimated 800 million dollars in 1993, it dropped to approximately US$ 500 million in 1999 and for 2009, we estimate it at approximately US$ 370 million.
  • In terms of value, this is less than 50% when compared to just sixteen years ago!
    sea pearls 1

But one must analyse the three industries separately, as they have developed quite independently from each other over decades.
sea pearls 2

Article source: Andy Müller, Kobe/Japan, as presented at the European Gemmological Symposium in Berne, Switzerland on June 5th, 2009
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We send your purchasing parcel via FedEx, we inform you the tracking number as soon as possible
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Pearl Quality

Pearl Quality

wholesale pearlsBecause pearls are naturally occurring organic gemstones, created by living creatures, the factors that impact quality and value vary widely. The value of a pearl quality is measured by several factors.

These pearl quality factors include:

  1. Pearl Type
  2. Nacre
  3. Lustre
  4. Surface
  5. Shape
  6. Colour
  7. Size

Pearl Quality in Pearl Type

The type of pearl is the most basic factor to consider. The common varieties of cultured pearls include freshwater pearls, and saltwater Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Each type of pearl is created by a different species of oyster, living in a different area of the world, under a variety of climatic conditions. South Sea and Tahitian pearls are generally larger than Akoya and freshwater pearls, and each type tends to have its own distinctive range of colours.

Pearl Quality in Nacre

Nacre is the organic substance, secreted by the mollusc, from which the pearl is formed. Colour and lustre are actually characteristics of the nacre itself. Usually the thicker the nacre is the more valuable the pearl.

Pearl Quality in Lustre

A pearl’s lustre is a measure of its brilliance and reflectivity. High-quality pearls are bright and shiny – you should be able to see your reflection in them. Lower-quality pearls have a chalkier or dull appearance. In general, saltwater pearls have a greater lustre than freshwater pearls.

Pearl Quality in Surface

The surface appearance of a pearl is a critical characteristic. Pearls should be smooth and shiny, without bumps, lines, spots, or discolorations. The surface should be shiny and reflective not dull and chalky.

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Pearl Quality in Shape

The shape of a pearl is where “value” and personal taste may differ. Perfectly round pearls are extremely rare, and therefore very expensive. Pearls come in a wide variety of interesting and unique shapes.

Some examples include:

  • Round – perfectly spherical
  • Near or Semi Round – slightly flattened or elongated
  • Button – slightly flattened into a disk-like “button” shape
  • Pear – elongated teardrop-shaped
  • Drop – teardrop shaped
  • Oval – egg-shaped
  • Baroque abstract and asymmetrical
  • Ringed concentric indentations or rings
  • Colour Pearl colour ranges across almost the entire spectrum from white to black. Naturally occurring colours include silver, cream, champagne, green, and blue. A pearl’s reflective overtones are different from its basic colour. This reflectivity gives pearls in the same colour category, a variety of looks and hues. Although some colours less common than others, and therefore more expensive, colour is another area where “value” and personal taste may vary.
  • Size The size of pearls is measured in millimetres. Pearls today range in size from less than 1mm (seed pearls) to 14mm or larger. The average size of pearls on the market today, range in size from 6.5mm to 8mm. The size of a pearl directly impacts its quality and price. Larger pearls are generally more expensive.
  • Other factors come into play when evaluating a pearls quality and value. Natural pearls are the most valuable, but most pearls on the market today are treated in some way or another. Some treatments do not impact the value of pearls while others do.

south sea pearls wholesaleFor Questions and answer you can contact & chat with us on:

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Pearl Care & Handling – south sea pearl necklace

Pearl Care & Handling – south sea pearl necklace

wholesale pearlsCultured saltwater and freshwater pearls are more fragile than most other gemstones so they must be handled with the utmost care to keep them in their best condition. Remember that natural body oils help enhance your pearl’s lustre, but that perfumes, soaps, hairspray and makeup can damage a pearl’s lustre and stain the silk the pearls are knotted on. Pearls also scratch easily so always store them very carefully (Reference: south sea pearl necklace)

Pearls Care – south sea pearl necklace

  1. Re-knot your pearl necklaces periodically to ensure that the silk or nylon cord holding them is in good shape. Knotting between pearls prevents loosing pearls if the strand should break.
  2. Always put your pearls on after you’ve applied your makeup, perfume and hairspray.
  3. Take your pearl rings off before applying lotions or creams.

Pearls Cleaning – south sea pearl necklace

  1. Gently wipe your pearls with a soft, lint-free cloth each time you take them off. The cloth may be dry or damp. If damp, allow the pearls to air dry before putting them away.
  2. Dirty pearls may be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution or a specialty pearl cleaning solution.
  3. Never clean your pearls with solutions that contain ammonia or harsh detergents.
  4. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner or wipe pearls with an abrasive cloth as both can scratch the nacre coating.
  5. Don’t use an ultrasonic cleaner to clean pearl jewellery.

Pearls Storage – south sea pearl necklace

    1. Store your pearls separately from other jewellery. Pearls can be easily scratched when metal or gemstones rub against them.
    2. Place your pearls in a special slot in your jewellery box, or keep them in a soft bag made from a non-abrasive material.
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(Reference: south sea pearl necklace)For Questions and answer you can contact & chat with us on:

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This is my name, my phone number and my address, as a sender (written by FedEx)
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We send your purchasing parcel via FedEx, we inform you the tracking number as soon as possible
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Pearl Culturing & Pearl Farming

Pearl Culturing & Pearl Farming

wholesale pearlsPearl Culturing
Natural Pearls vs. Cultured Pearls Natural pearls, are pearls formed by chance. The shape, size, and quality of natural pearls vary widely. Cultured pearls have been given a helping hand by man and are consistent in shape, size and quality. Cultured pearls can also be mass produced. Naturally occurring pearls develop when an irritant, usually a parasite, accidentally finds its way into a pearl oyster or other mollusc. The mollusc reacts by coating the irritant with layer upon layer of a substance known as ‘nacre’. Nacre is an organic secretion that gives the pearl its iridescent beauty. This unique relationship gives birth to the natural pearl.

Cultured pearls are created by inserting a foreign object into a saltwater oyster or freshwater mollusc. The same process of natural pearl creation then takes place. Cultured pearls can only be distinguished from natural pearls through the use of x-rays, which reveals the nucleus of the pearl. Today, nearly all pearls are cultured.

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The History of Pearl Culturing The cultured pearl was developed to guarantee a steady supply of pearls and to satisfy the ever increasing demands of the consumer. Modern-day cultured pearls are the result of discoveries made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, by Japanese researchers Tatsuhei Mise, Tokishi Nishikawa, and Kokichi Mikimoto. Early in Mikimoto’s career he focused on saltwater mabé pearl production. He eventually perfected his technique for producing round cultured saltwater pearls. This technique involved inserting tissue into the gonad of an Akoya mollusc. He patented this technique in 1916.

Mikimoto’s technique revolutionized the pearl industry by allowing consistent production of a large number of pearls. High quality, round pearls could now be produced by the millions; making them available and affordable to everyone. Today, the cultured pearl industry has essentially replaced the natural pearl industry with production of cultured freshwater pearls and cultured saltwater pearls including South Sea, Tahitian, and of course Mikimoto’s original Akoya pearls. By the 1980’s the Chinese had entered the free-market and the demand for Chinese pearls exploded. Today China is the predominant commercial producer of freshwater pearls on pearl farms.

Pearl Farming

Today cultured pearls are grown by the thousands on pearl farms. The first step in the process is to obtain the molluscs that will be nucleated. The original practice was to simply collect the molluscs from their natural habitat. Today many pearl farms have an extensive breeding program. After fertilization and the initial growth period baby molluscs are moved to a “nursery” bed and tended for 1 to 2 years until they are large enough to be nucleated.

Thousands of molluscs are nucleated and then cultivated for 2-5 years, the time required for a pearl to develop. Saltwater pearls are nucleated using a “bead” made of mother-of-pearl. This bead is covered with a piece of donor oyster tissue and implanted in the oyster’s reproductive organ called the gonad. The pearl will develop in the shape of the “bead” that was implanted. The result of this process is very uniform pearls.

Freshwater pearls are grafted with mantle tissue only. The implants are placed in the valves rather than in the gonad of the mussel. Each mussel can accept 12 to 16 grafts per valve and will produce 24 to 32 pearls per culturing cycle. After the pearls have been nucleated they are returned to the beds to grow for several additional years.
Once the pearls are fully developed, they are harvested. The shell and meat of the saltwater Akoya and freshwater mussel are discarded after harvesting. South Sea and Tahitian oysters are carefully hand harvested. For each fully developed pearl that is removed a new nucleus is implanted in the already formed pearl sac. The oysters are then returned to the bed to grow another pearl. These particular oysters can be recultivated several times during their life cycle. After the pearls are harvested they are washed and sorted. Some pearls are then bleached, heat-treated or dyed.

Like other farming, pearl farming depends as much on luck as on skill. A pearl farm can be devastated by water pollution, storms, excessive heat or cold, disease and other natural and man-made factors. In recent years Chinese pearl farms have been impacted negatively by severe storms, pollution and over production. This will lead to a decrease in availability and an increase in price of freshwater pearls.

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We send your purchasing parcel via FedEx, we inform you the tracking number as soon as possible

This is my name, my phone number and my address, as a sender (written by FedEx)
This is my name, my phone number and my address, as a sender (written by FedEx)

We send your purchasing parcel via FedEx, we inform you the tracking number as soon as possible
We send your purchasing parcel via FedEx, we inform you the tracking number as soon as possible

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