A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to review CIBJO‘s new Pearl book (also known as the “Blue Book”). For those not familiar with this “famous” book or who CIBJO is, let me present this information in a simple way: CIBJO is an international confederation of national jewelery trade organizations, and amongst the many services they provide the offer guidance (guidelines) on how to refer to when you sell or market a product that falls into their umbrella: mainly gems and jewelery. Stated in another way, a jeweler might use these CIBJO guidelines to sell his products in the most honest/honorable way possible. It can also be used by the client to demand more information on the product of interest. Unfortunately, the most common issue is that both client and vendor are unaware of this valuable source of information, or what is worse: that the jeweler/seller exploits the ignorance of the customer to achieve a fraudulent sale.
The fraudulent sale of gems of all kinds, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, is more common in developing countries, and this is partly due to low awareness among the general population about the characteristics and attributes of gemstones which they seek to acquire. To this we add the greed factor of many and/or their total ignorance and/or the fact that they too were “ripped off” and so we end up inside a great well of unease and distrust. Not one, nor two … but dozens of times we have witnessed some deception and fraud in jewelry sales, and for us -pearl producers and jewelry makers- this issue becomes more sensitive in cases involving pearls.
For this reason, and to celebrate the publication of the new CIBJO-Blue Book: Pearls (this link allows you to download the PDF file directly from CIBJO) we will discuss about the various “myths” that allow for the deception and fraud in the purchase or acquisition of pearl jewelry. We hope that this series will indulge to your liking… even to your dislike (some will end up with a terrible feeling after reading these series of articles), but my hope is that this will help you to avoid a terrible mistake or being cheated and deceived. So, let’s start with this series of “myths” …
Myth # 1: “Majorca Pearls”
This is probably the most common myth or fraud of which we are known. How many times have we had a visit from a proud owner of a double-string necklace of “Majorca Pearls”? Countless times. How many times have we been told how when they visited the island of Mallorca, Spain, they even had a chance of visiting the “pearl farm” and could see how the oysters were stripped of their beautiful “pearls”? Again: countless … and how many times have we had to repeat that “Mallorca pearls” are just false, simulated or imitation pearls or -isn’t French just great at making things sound so romantic?- “Faux Perles“? Untold times. In fact, my favorite phrase is: “The only part of a ‘Majorca Pearl’ that is truly Pearl can be found in its trade name” (McLaurin dixit).
But hey! Don’t take my word for it, but instead… use the CIBJO Pearl Book and just go to page # 6 in paragraph 4.4.4 entitled “Imitation or Simulated”, and it unmistakeably identifies them as fake pearls. There, clearly mentioned, are the brand names of the most common imitation pearls, and it states how you may not use these to deceive a customer and -in this particular case- they HAVE TO BE described as follows: “Imitation Majorica Pearls”. So we have have an international authority that confirms that these famous “pearls” are simply … imitations. And this in itself is no problem unless you are told that if they are either natural or cultured pearls: then it is FRAUD.
How could the problem have started? In most cases -such as in department stores- the person in charge of selling the items does not have the foggiest idea of what they are actually selling: they have been equally trained to sell diapers and jewelry -in the best parrot-like way- but they have been told what to say from others that don’t know a thing about pearls. But this does not exempt them from fraud … and it does not matter if the jewelry item (be it a necklace or bracelet or earrings) came with a certificate of authenticity: a review of its text will inform you that they are not real pearls, but most of the time it will employ such verbiage “semi-cultivated pearls” or “Made using Marine materials”. This will be discussed in more detail in the coming weeks.