Pandemic Pearls – Biggest shock for Years?

Pearls – the gem that will go with everything, crosses the generations and decades. Safe, predictable, eternal. Is now the time to reassess their value?

Thanks to the Chinese market, there has been a growing production of quality fresh-water and saltwater pearls over the last decade. The downside of this monumental growth is that the market is arguably becoming saturated.

This is borne out in the price of pearls at auction. Japanese salt water Akoya, good Chinese fresh water and even small Tahitian pearls keep on under-performing and can be picked up for next to nothing.

This situation may be about to undergo a seismic change.

If I can cast your mind back to 2020, the world literally stopped. Not only the obvious things such as air travel and carefree shopping, but the thousands of ‘route to market’ supply lines. This included the people who support and make those supply lines run like clockwork – Normality went on hold.

Pearl Creation

The industry of Pearl farming and production walks a delicate tightrope between man and nature. There are many different types of pearl bearing molluscs, who have their own specific growth cycle, but to make a generalisation each pearl mollusc is either dived for by hand or is born, raised and seeded in stringently checked temperatures with the correct food, space and daylight. This process generally can take between 2-4 years of consistent care and attention – this was not possible during the pandemic.

During the global lockdowns, pearl growers, specialists, itinerant labourers and their vital support network all returned home. For the first time in decades, the seasonal flow of global pearl farming ground to a halt as there simply were not enough people to assure the continuity especially for South Sea, Tahitian and fine quality pearls.

Take the case of Paspaley in Northern Australia, a threegeneration pearl farming family who produce some of the most beautiful pearls in the world. They were so affected by the pandemic that they applied for and received a licence for specialised staff to continue working, but they were only allowed to work on boats moored offshore so there was no chance of Covid spreading. Even with this intervention their normal levels of production were curtailed.

This seismic shock to the usual farming life has caused a gap in the pearl production world and a shadow over future yields over the next few years.

Only time will tell what the quality and yield will be but it is understood by those in the know that it will take 2-3 years to get ‘back to normal’.

The basic economic principal of supply and demand may come to bear with reduced gem quality pearls coming to the market where the prices may harden and quite likely increase. Not only will this hopefully invigorate the auction pearl market but also remind pearl owner’s to have their pieces re-valued. Depending on how this industry is affected, Covid may have caused the pearls in your jewellery box to be very under-valued. A once predictable and safe commodity may have a trick in the tail and prove to be more valuable than they once were.

Posted in Jewellery, News.

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