February 4th, 2015: Here I am reporting from Tucson, Arizona, in what is considered the largest international gems & mineral show, a city that becomes a haven for precious gems, semi-precious stones, fossils and all kinds of jewelry in the world. This year -and every year since 1995- we are displaying our exclusive and unique Cortez Pearls, and every year I try make a small report about the people, companies, products or events that drew my attention,and this year is no exception.
But before I begin with a general report of 2015’s Tucson Gem Show I want to start with a very quick report about our Cortez Pearls production. I will begin with the information about our 2014 Pearl harvest.
The 2014 Cortez Pearl Harvest
The year 2014 will go down in the annals of our history as a bittersweet year: we had the best pearl harvest in our history: after more than 15 years of commercial pearl production, we finally reached the goal of the 4 kilos of Cortez Pearls (this means just around 4,000 pearls). But despite the very good news, we also had problems with the environment (global warming) and this resulted in a very high mortality in the group of oysters that will allow us to produce pearls in the year 2016. Because of this reason, we have had this bittersweet situation.
Some of the novelties of 2014 and that we are showing here at the Tucson Gem Show are these:
We have a new variety of Cortez Mabe Pearl on sale: we call it the “Mini-Mabe”, these are Mabe pearls that have a lower dome height and a smaller diameter (this means, much smaller than traditional Cortez Mabe), but this gives them a lower value of investment and -in addition- it also allows the jeweler or designer to use less metal to produce jewelry items that are more affordable for the end user. These pearls have been used by our Australian distributor (Raw Pearls of Adelaide) with great success, and these lovely little Mabe have caused a great impact at the Gem Show and are all but almost exhausted.
“Raw Pearls” – Turtle Pendant w/CortezMini Mabe
For this show’s gems have been exhibiting the Cortez Pearls of the 2014 harvest (the 2015 harvest will take place in the middle of this year) and among the most important items I have to mention is the beautifully unique 2014 Cortez Pearl necklace. This beautiful necklace consists of 43 cultured pearls from the Gulf of California, all the pearls were produced by our exclusive “Rainbow Lip Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna) and was made with pearls of at least 6 different yearly harvests. This multicolor, graduated necklace is made with pearls that measure between 8.3 mm and 10.6 mm, with the central Pearl -an incredible dark purple-red Cortez Pearl- measuring 11.3 mm. What else can I tell you about this beautiful necklace? It is an extremely rare piece, this would be the 11th Special Cortez Pearl Necklace that we have produced with this finesse and quality… and it’s a uniquely special piece, the owner will even have the right to Christen it with a unique name and this name will be linked to the necklace for generations to come.
Cortez Pearl Necklace 2014
Among the pearls that came to Tucson, we have the large Cortez Blister Mabe Pearls, which this past year were more abundant than in other years, but that ultimately are a little more than 100 pearls… these pearls have beautiful colors and larger sizes (reaching up to 5 cm/2” in diameter), and are perfect for producing pieces of jewelry with a high visual impact.
Cortez Mabe Blister
In general this year’s gem show had a special flavor to it, something which I had not felt in many recent years and that I can only describe in a single word: enthusiasm.
This enthusiastic atmosphere seemed widespread amongst buyers and most of the sellers, and I believe this optimism may be due to the recovery or improvement of the United States economy (although customers from Canada and other oil exporting countries were not in the same spirit). Let us hope that this spirit will also translate into an overall growth of the international jewelry industry.
Note: The information you have read up to the previous paragraph was written while at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, but as of this moment the report was written on February 11th. There was simply too much work at our booth and I could not continue with a “live and direct” report.
Elisabeth Strack’s Pearl Presentation (AGTA)
The AGTA carries out seminars and lectures by expert gemologists, designers and industry analysts every year. This year was no exception and we were lucky to go to the presentation of one of the foremost authorities in the world of pearls: German Gemologist Dr. Elisabeth Strack, author of what many (myself included) consider to be the Pearl Bible: “Perlen“.
The presentation took place on February 4th at the Tucson Convention Centre and Dr. Strack spoke mainly about three issues:
1) the “new wave” of natural pearls, mainly made up of non-conventional species (non-nacreous pearls from snails, clams and even the Nautilus) and
2) a review of some pearl innovations, such as the RFID enabled Pearls and the “Provoked Baroques” as well as a redefinition of freshwater pearls based on their production system (Note: if interested, my friend Caitlin Williams wrote an amazing article on the Evolution of the Freshwater Pearl on the PearlsOfJoy.com website. I recommend Caitlin’s article wholeheartedly).
3) the Natural Pearl Market: Something that seems very important to stress is that Dr. Strack explained that the way in which you can assign a monetary value to a natural pearl no longer obeys the “old pricing rules” which seemed to function for centuries; she basically states that today the value of a pearl is just a “thing of the market”, where the price of the pearl basically depends on what a customer is willing to pay for it. Wow.
She mentioned the famous that the once popular pearl pricing “Rule of Tavernier”, named in honor of Jean Baptiste Tavernier (a great Explorer and French merchant of the 17th century who discovered the famous “Tavernier Blue” diamond) is no longer the “rule of thumb” for natural pearl pricing. This rule basically consists of a system based upon two factors and their interaction:
The “Size Factor“: basically the weight of a Pearl is obtained in grains (a grain being equal to 64.79891 milligrams) and this value is then multiplied by itself. Thus, if a Pearl weighs 4 grains its size factor value will be equal to (4 x 4 =) 16.
The “Multiplier Factor” or of Quality/Beauty: Tavernier established a range between 0.5 and 30 as a possible value for the pearl’s quality or beauty. Pearls of little or no beauty will be valued between 0.5 and 3, while the more “normal” pearls fall within the range of 15 to 20, and exceptionally beautiful pearls -the so called “gems”- will fall within the range between 25 to 30. Once you select the appropriate number you proceed to…
Multiply the Factors: take the resulting number of “Size Factor” (SF) and that of the “Multiplier Factor” (MF) and multiply them. In an example, lets us say that we have two pearls, one being very beautiful (MF = 30) and a far less graceful one (MF = 0.5); if both weigh the same (8 grains, SF = 16) then we have that the price of the gem pearl will be $480 and the less graceful one will be worth just a mere $8.
And in what currency is the value of the Pearls set in the examples above? In US dollars according to Strack (for more information, you can consult Elisabeth Strack’s book “Pearls” on pages 297 and 298). I assume that there was another currency in use in the times of Monsieur Tavernier, very probably the most international currency of the day was the “Mexican Peso” (also known as “Real Español”), but Dr. Strack found a way to upgrade its outdated value to a 2006 equivalent (date of the publication of her book). We are fortunate to have it so easy.
But again, for Elisabeth Strack, the price of natural pearls today is completely out of all rules and simply depends on the “market”.
An example she provided with a pair of natural Pteria sterna pearls, the same oyster that we use to produce our beautiful Cortez Pearls, is revealing. In this example, she had the photo of two tear-drop shaped pearls, one of weighing 10.15 ct (carats) and the other one at 1345 ct; these were sold to a final price of $2,600 to $26,390 USD USD/ct…equivalent to some by smaller Pearl and $34,970 USD by the greater size.
Having used the rule of Tevernier, the value of these same pearls would be a little different (I’ll use a 15 FM as an example):
- 10.15 ct = mg = 31.33 2,030 grains then 31.33 x 31.33 x 15 = $14,723 USD
- 1345 ct = mg = 41.51 2.690 grains then 41.51 x 41.51 x 15 = $25,846 USD
In this case the price could be very different, since I don’t have the actual MF value assigned to these pearls, but changing this value would obviously make a huge difference.
It’s really rare to find pearls like those in the example above, so if you do find a natural pearl… first you should consider its size/weight and then its beauty. Please do not become too emotional with the price and then do consult with an expert in this field before you actually tell your boss you quit and will move next to your favorite movie star’s house.
It is very important that you know and understand this: these prices are the end customers pay. What I mean by this? That these would be the prices that people pay as Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Paul Allen, Mark Zuckberg, etc… and not are prices that could pay the intermediaries, which are those who buy these pearls and can offer them to another intermediary (the famous Jewelers like Tiffany, Cartier, Harry Winston, etc.) who is who ends up offering these gems to moguls. The only way in which you could access these prices is you go directly to the final customer… it would be good to know them and they you know you so you open up the doors.
At the moment it is the information that I am going to share this great annual event in Arizona, but next week I will continue with additional information about the event. I hope that the information is of utility and interest and here my kind readers I’ll be sharing my expert advice with you.
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