Cultured Pearls in the 21st Century
April 11, 2008 :: Posted by - web_glnews :: Category - Uncategorized
The cultured pearl industry has experienced a dramatic transformation during the past 15 years, from a single commodity dominated by one country to a multi-colored array of goods and an ever-expanding group of producers.
Japanese Dealers Relinquish Control
For many decades after pioneering the cultured pearl in the early twentieth century, Japanese companies maintained tight control over its technology, production and distribution (figure 2). In the 1960s, however, large, white South Sea cultured pearls from Australia and black cultured pearls from French Polynesia began entering the market alongside the traditional white Japanese akoya.
The French Polynesians initially struggled to gain acceptance for their products, as many believed they were treated-color. A breakthrough came in the early 1970s when GIA researcher Robert Crowningshield determined their black color was indeed natural. Meanwhile, the South Sea cultured pearl was becoming a branded fashion item, though the Australians still marketed their output solely through Japanese wholesalers.
The real changes began in the 1990s, when the nearly century-long grip of the Japanese loosened due to a combination of factors: aggressive marketing efforts for South Sea and black French Polynesian pearls; the rise of lower-cost, fine-quality Chinese freshwater cultured pearls
The Australians and the French Polynesians (now selling under the “Tahitian” banner) began marketing their products as distinct from Japanese akoyas: the South Sea goods as luxury items that were not subjected to treatments, the Tahitians as exotic fashion pieces. Producers of both types of cultured pearls embarked on multi-million-dollar consumer campaigns to promote their goods and the images they wanted them to convey.
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