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Retailer Pearl Picks
Buyer's Choice

Retailers say that pearls are a must-stock item this holiday season because they offer great value at every level of the market.

“I think that pearls are the best value out there,” says Laura Barringer, senior buyer at Ben Bridge. “We haven’t seen the increase that we’ve seen in gold and diamonds. And pearls are so fun now with baroques, and keshis and all the natural colors. Freshwaters in natural colors are staples and we also have Tahitian strands at every store.”

In particular, pearls have a lot to offer in entry level price points, which are expected to be particularly important this holiday season. With diamonds and precious metals continuing to rise, pearls are a welcome respite from price point creep.

Affordable freshwater pearls in fun fashionable shades are particularly popular for the holiday season, with price points beginning below $100. Stores have added pendants on silk or rubber cords that are affordable and also a more casual look for young consumers.

At the high end, a new palette of multicolor mixes in warm tones and a campaign parade of powerful pearl accessorizing may make the statement strand a good candidate for holiday sales, too.

pearl Earrings and pendant set

Earrings and pendant set with colorful Tahitian pearls and pavé diamond spheres from the “Song of the Stars” collection designed by Reena Ahluwalia for Baggins, (877) 33-PEARL.

multicolor freshwater pearl necklaces

“We are stocking a bit of everything, but what stands out are warm hues. The goldens, the light butter yellows, creams, and chocolates add a new flavor to the fashion palette. We even have all these colors mixed together in single strands. Non-traditional is what appeals to customers. Most people have the classic strand and now they want a fun piece. We have 72-inch freshwater dyed strands from $75 to $200 in many colors—green, gray, pink, peach—which are great for any age. A piece that has sold well is a 17-inch dyed strand with a heart toggle clasp. It’s great for Mother’s Day, graduations, and bridal gifts. Sarah Jessica Parker is setting the trend. Her layering of all shapes and sizes of pearls is something that just went to the next level in place of the single long opera strand. Chocolate is still new, we are showing it in many price points and have even warmed it up more by setting them alongside chocolate diamonds or chocolate gold.”
— Amy Dudzik, Borsheim’s, Omaha, Nebraska

Long multicolor freshwater pearl necklaces from Shogun Pearl, (800) 458-8004.
Necklace and ring with warm tones of chocolate and golden pearls in 18k gold from Yvel, (646) 519-3518.

mother-of-pearl gaming chip pendants in 14k gold

“We’ve seen a jump in the popularity of freshwater and colored pearls. It has a lot to do with price points. I can show somebody some crown Imperials at $6,000 or freshwaters at $1,000. Over the past five years we’ve seen a noticeable difference in freshwaters as they’ve gone from that rice krispie look to much rounder shapes. All age groups like them, usually self-purchasers. When we sell a strand of fine pearls, it’s usually to guys! Imperial is our mainstay, but we also buy from others. We sell a lot of Donna Chambers, who uses freshwaters with Ching Dynasty mother-of-pearl gaming chips. We pick and choose rather than go wholesale with any one line.”
— Debbie Lorenson, Schroth & Lorenson, Summit, New Jersey

Engraved antique mother-of-pearl gaming chip pendants in 14k gold by Donna Chambers Designs, suggested retail $850 for round and $900 for square, (914) 287-0303.

horse head brooch with a baroque pearl

“For pearls, we deal exclusively with Avi at A&Z. He has cutting-edge, high-fashion styles that fit our clientele. The women who come here don’t want their mothers’ pearls. They’re looking for something cool, hip, and up to date. We’re not a typical store—we sell a lot of odd things, such as keshis in various colors and one-of-a-kind pieces. We just sold a $3,000 earring set that has a dangling diamond cage with South Sea pearls. People often come here looking for something else, then take one look at the sizes and colors of our pearls, and walk out with pearl jewelry.”
— Scherri Reimer, Jon’s Fine Jewelry, Cocoa Beach, Florida

One-of-a-kind horse head brooch with a baroque pearl from Avi Raz at A&Z Pearls, (800) 732-7572.

Long freshwater pearl necklace

“Pearls definitely provide a lot of value for consumers. Freshwater pearls are doing well in a mix of colors, with chain in a mix of metals as well as thread, long strands, lariats, every variation. Price points are between $95 and $1,500, depending on the length, the gemstones and metals, and number of strands. It’s so easy now for the consumer to have a pearl collection and have something to wear with every outfit. Chocolate pearls are especially popular. We are mixing tonal shades and contrasting colors, for example, chocolate with bronze, copper, beige, and cream, as well as black and white. Long lengths are still important, we have a 100-inch rope and a 50-inch strand. Once a consumer learns what to do with a long strand, she loves the versatility.”
— Amy Curran, Fortunoff’s, Westbury, New York

Long freshwater pearl necklace in a coppery hue from JewelMak, suggested retail $114, (212) 398-2999.

Tahitian pearl and sterling silver bracelet

“We’ve always been strong with pearls, but we’re noting an increase in the sale of fashion pearls, non-classic pieces where the main element might be silver or gold with pearls as an accent. Younger women used to reject what they considered their grandmothers’ or mothers’ classic pearl strands, but now they’re falling in love with the colors of Tahitians and South Seas. Programs like ‘Sex and the City’ also have an effect on younger trend watchers, as well as political women wearing pearls as a chosen accent. Among designers we like Imperial Pearls. We also like that pearls are romantic items that almost sell themselves, but you have to see them in person. You can’t tell what a pearl really looks like on the Internet.”
— Martha Hart, Karen’s Jewelers, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Tahitian pearl and sterling silver bracelet from Imperial, (800) 556-7738.

South Sea cultured pearl earrings with diamond pavé

“Over the last three or four years we’ve seen a consumer shift from akoyas to South Sea pearls. People are looking for larger diameter beads and longer strands, even up to 36 inches. Everybody seems to like color—goldens, blacks, and browns. The traditional basic white strand isn’t as popular. Although we custom-make most of our pieces, we buy earrings, bracelets, and necklaces from Baggins. We just sold a stunning full string of pistachio green cultured pearls that we bought from Baggins in Tucson. It has green diamond rondelles and a German clasp—a magnificent piece.”
— John Mays, John Mays Jewelers, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Golden South Sea cultured pearl earrings with diamond pavé from Baggins, (877) 33-PEARL.

Forty strand akoya keshi necklace with more than 50,000 pearls and an 18k gold clasp

“Pearls are a standard with us—about 50 percent of our stock. I think they should be a standard everywhere. We’re seeing a slight increase in the bigger sizes, such as South Sea baroques, inspired by politicians Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Big pearl necklaces are in. Most of our customers are repeat customers who collect pearls. New buyers are amazed at our variety, which runs the gamut. Japanese freshwater is a specialty with us, and we like Pearl Exporting in Kobe which produces these antique-look necklaces with 30 to 40 strands of keshi that have great appeal.”
— Sam Hill, Rohr Jewelers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Forty strand akoya keshi necklace with more than 50,000 pearls and an 18k gold clasp from Pearl Exporting Co., suggested retail $6,000, (866) 6-PEARLS.

Bracelet with chocolate, golden, and champagne colored freshwater pearls

“We recently had a ladies’ night at the store that featured chocolate pearls, chocolate diamonds, and chocolate martinis, so pearls are important to us. Most of our clients prefer classic freshwater pieces, which are becoming more appealing because of their improving quality and price points that are comfortable for most women. Our clients like the whole range of pearl styles, from strands to bracelets, rings, and earrings. We love Avi Raz’s pieces, especially ones with large South Sea baroques.”
— Leslie Milano, State Street Jewelers, Geneva, Illinois

Bracelet with chocolate, golden, and champagne colored freshwater pearls from Imperial, (800) 556-7738.

Diamond and 18k gold hinged cuff with multicolor Tahitian    cultured pearls

always elegant
“People buying more pearls because of high metal prices still seems to be the case. We’re seeing an abundance of medium to better quality pearls, which are showing up in multiple strands of four or more. Coco Chanel started that style and every time HBO or a premium channel runs her biography, we get people coming in wanting to try out her look. Because pearls are always in fashion, always smart, elegant, ladylike and appropriate, we teach our customers how to pair them up with even T-shirts and blue jeans. Our price points run from $400 to $30,000. Designers we really like include Tasaki; Mastoloni has elegant designs; and Shogun has wonderful, multicolored things.”
— Elizabeth Parker, Curt Parker Jewelers, St. Louis, Missouri

Diamond and 18k gold hinged cuff with multicolor Tahitian cultured pearls by Mastoloni, suggested retail $5,780, (212) 757-7278.