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Update on Cold Damage to Chinese Freshwater Pearls

Some months ago, I wrote a post called In the Footsteps of A Pearl Dealer a.k.a "Dad". For many artisans, it was a fascinating insider look on where our favourite gemstones come from.

Well, Dad has recently written his long awaited eBAY guide "Pearl Emporium's Cold Damage report on Pearls" on what the future brings for pearl prices after the unexpectedly cold weather this past March wrecked havoc on the freshwater pearl farms in China. It was the coldest weather for that part of China in 60 years.

The bottom line is to "anticipate steadily higher prices for top end freshwater pearls for the foreseeable future." As pearls take so long to mature, the harvests two to three years in the future will be the ones affected for quality and volume.

Dad said in his recent newsletter, "The 2 inch to 2.5 inch oysters implanted just before the record cold seem to be greatly damaged. They were the ones hanging closest to the surface and frozen into the ice, as the weight was not yet sufficient to pull them deeper below the surface between the bottle floats."

The bottom left photo above shows six month old oysters which are about 2 inches and ready to be nucleated that is the implantation of small mantel tissue to create virtually 100% nacre pearls. No beads are used to start the coating process. The lower right photo above shows two opened 18 month old oysters. The one on the left is healthy with a normal range of tissue colour. However, the opened oyster on the right is an unhealthy yellow which indicates serious damage. You can see the deteriorated pearl colours too.

The above picture shows a typical small pearl farm - an old rice field simply dug deeper. The rice fields around the farm actually help supply free fertilizer to help grow the algae which the oysters eat. Dad has clearly developed a strong professional relationship with the small pearl farmers - the above picture on the right shows him in the living room of "some of the nicest folks you will ever meet". They are not wealthy people. Although they do have electricity in their homes, Dad points out there are candles ever ready in case. Such farms are fast disappearing as they are being replaced by mega or monster farms.

He also does not think that the extra volume from mega farms will take off the upward pressure on future prices as Japanese investors and the Chinese government investing heavily into this industry will favour higher prices.

And oh, one more note from Dad, " Just for the record, it was still very cold and I was wearing two borrowed heavy jackets. I am not really fat!"
The Beading Gem's Journal


  1. Makes you feel bad for the small farmers, they have to rely on nature to smile on them.

  2. Pearl, you never cease to amaze me with what you can come up with each and every article. Really enjoy reading your stuff, it's like a Jewelry Wikipedia!

  3. Jewelry Wikipedia!! I love that. I do enjoy writing and I try and deliver on the "different" kind of jewelry blog. I like to share information with my readers that they may not know about.

    Alas, this includes the bad news about rising pearl prices. I agree with Bette Jo, it is such a shame to see family farms struggle...and perhaps disappear.

  4. Great article and great photos.

    There was substantial damage last year to the akoya industry in China as well. It was not due to the cold, it was due to a devastating typhoon that dumped too much freshwater into the coastal areas.

  5. I didn't know about the typhoon damage to the akoya farms. It goes to show how vulnerable ALL farmers are to the vagaries of weather.


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