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Pearl Market Expands
Pearl Scene

World cultured pearl production value increased 7 percent in value in 2005 to $640 million, according to the 2006 Golay "Pearl Update." Pearl producers report stronger sales at farms and in auctions and wholesalers also report improved sales to retailers. After years of cutting back on stock, most wholesalers are rebuilding inventory in view of strengthening pearl prices and higher turnover.

Major pearl auctions of South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls from March through September of 2006 showed a price increase varying from 10 to 40 percent compared with 2005 levels. The increase is particularly remarkable in the commercial qualities.

Prices of akoya pearls, notably in the first grade pearls, also registered a rise between 5 and 10 percent during the hamaage (raw pearls) auctions in Japan in 2006. Medium to good quality akoya pearls at 9mm and above commanded higher prices than previous years.

Chinese freshwater pearls, after years of drastic price drops and fluctuations, are also showing a bottoming-out for the lower qualities, and a firming-up for prices of higher qualities. Some categories of freshwater pearls, such as top-quality rounds and near rounds of all sizes, nice baroques from 8mm and up, and nice quality pearls above 10mm in all shapes, have experienced a significant price hike.


In 2005, production of South Sea pearls recorded a 25 percent increase in volume. For the first time in the history of cultured pearls, the annual harvest of South Sea pearls surpassed the supply of black pearls. The total production of South Sea pearls in 2005 is estimated at between 9 and 10 tonnes with an estimated value of $236 million.

Australia and Indonesia remain the top two producing countries, although the Philippines also contributes to the significant increase in harvests. The use of hatchery oysters and the solid financial base of established producers in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar are turning South Sea cultured pearls into the leading cultured pearl category, representing 37 percent of the total pearl market value in 2005.


After a peak production of 10 tonnes in 2003, annual exports of Tahitian cultured pearls dropped to 8.5 tonnes in 2004 and further down to 8.1 in 2005. The reduced supply in quantity is the fruit of a series of government regulatory measures imposed on upholding the quality and market value of the Tahitian pearl. The reform has yielded positive results: Export values rebounded to $115 million in 2004, followed by a consecutive rise to $126 million in 2005. In 2006, the value continues to climb for Tahitian pearl exports. The black cultured pearl industry has an overall estimated value of $125 million, representing around 20 percent of the total pearl market value.

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A variety of cultured pearls
A variety of cultured pearls.
© courtesy of Golay