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Friday, February 25, 2011

Lois Berger’s Pearl Walk

Strands of Nucleated Chinese Pearls at the Sea Hunt booth

Pearls are not just beautiful, they are complex. There are many ways of growing pearls these days and a seemingly endless number of ways to label them and quantify their beauty and value. All of this was made even clearer to me during the recent AGTA GemFair Tucson when I participated in Lois Berger’s annual “Pearl Walk.”

Lois Berger (right) speaks with Gina Latendresse of American Pearl Company

Berger is an international authority on pearls. She is senior gemology appraiser of Fuller & Associates, and pearl reporter for The Guide, Gemworld International's influential pricing guide in the gem industry.

A baroque beauty from King's Ransom.

In addition to her position in the industry, Berger holds another title that is far more valuable: Sweetheart. At more than 80 years of age, she trudges through the Tucson Convention Center with a large bag on wheels (Who knows what’s in it?) and a big smile on her face. She takes her job seriously as she is at the show from opening till closing working non-stop. Afterward she organizes large dinners and other events for her friends and associates—if she doesn’t have any business events to attend. Although busy, she always has time and advice for others and instantly befriends strangers as she did with me.

A creative way of using Chinese pearls in jewelry from A & Z Pearls.

Berger leads what has become known as the Pearl Walk, where she takes pearl experts and enthusiasts in the jewelry industry to a handful of pearl exhibitors where they present new products, interesting finds and provide a personal account of the industry. This year we visited five pearl wholesale suppliers: American Pearl Company, King’s Ransom, A & Z Pearls, Imperial Deltah and Sea Hunt Pearls.

At top blister pearls and below fossilized pearls from Kansas.

Providing information for consumers to make good, informed choices when buying jewelry is one of the goals of my blog. However, I am not a pearl expert. If you go to the websites of these companies you’ll gain a great deal of knowledge about pearls. Also, check out the Pearl-Guide website.

American Pearl Company
This company specializes in American natural and cultured pearls. In these two videos, Gina Latendresse, president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based company shows fossilized pearls found in Kansas and examples of blister pearls, a pearl that developed attached to the inside of a mollusk's shell.

King’s Ransom
Betty Sue King, the self-claimed “Pearl Goddess,” shows a variety of examples of Chinese nucleated freshwater pearls that her Sausalito, Calif.-based company has in its inventory. As an added bonus, pearl expert Elisabeth Strack of the Gemological Institute of Hamburg, explains the species of the pearl.

A & Z Pearls
In the first video, Avi Raz of the Los Angeles-based company discusses the improved quality of the Chinese pearls and how one can create jewelry from it. A picture of the piece of jewelry being passed around is above. In the second video, Raz shows how he meets market demands for lower prices without reducing quality by mixing pearls with colored gemstones in jewelry.

In these two videos, the appraisers in the audience couldn’t contain their excitement when Peter Bazar of the East Providence, R.I. based company showed their inventory of “crown” quality Akoyas, Golden South Seas and “crown” quality freshwater pearls.

Sea Hunt Pearls
Jack Lynch of the San Francisco-based company that specializes in Asian cultured pearls shows a variety of Chinese nucleated pearls in various colors and sizes so large that he was unable to measure them with his millimeter gauge.

More videos from the Pearl Walk are available at the Jewelry News Network channel on YouTube.