According to research by the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, the value of pearls has risen by a staggering 369% in the past decade due to strong demand.
But it has only been in recent years that customer opinion of pearls has dramatically shifted, with many hailing them as the ultimate on-trend accessory as opposed to a grandmother’s adornment.
In 2015, Christie’s auction house proved just how popular pearls can be when it sold a four-strand natural pearl necklace for a record-breaking £3.35 million – signalling a stand-up-and-take-notice attitude among jewellery buyers and collectors.
Here, IJL exhibitor Miranda Raw of Raw Pearls explains how her business is tackling the issue of rising prices head-on, and how she plans to offer a new crop of ‘show specials’ to IJL visitors this year…
Q: Why have pearl prices risen so dramatically and what is Raw Pearls doing to tackle this?
MR: Freshwater pearls in particular have seen huge price increases in the last two years for a variety of reasons including closures of farms in China, environmental challenges associated with global warming, and more demand in the local markets. Some of these factors also hold true for the akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearl markets.
This is not a situation that we expect to be resolved in the near future and so price increases may well be here to stay, particularly for those seeking a higher quality product.
We tend to plan our biggest buying trips at the beginning of the year after the previous year’s crop has been processed (cleaned, drilled etc). This is important because this is the time when we have access to the largest selection of product and can seek out the very best at the various price points. Likewise, having access to the farms is important because we cut out layers of agents and offices adding their margin.
Q: Have you noticed any trends in the pearl jewellery market in recent months?
MR: Classic pearl strands and studs are always a jeweller’s staple, but with advances in farming methods, we see bigger, brighter natural colour freshwater pearls on the market. Catwalks continue to display ‘pearls’ in some form on the runway and many were on display at the recent Paris Fashion Week, showing that pearls are still very much current in fashion.
Q: What has been your experience of exhibiting at IJL and do you think it is benefiting your business?
MR: Our experience of IJL has been wonderful – it has allowed current customers to come and view our range in the glamorous Olympia environment, with much more stock to choose from than we can possibly take to an appointment. It has also allowed us to connect with potential customers who have been considering stocking Raw Pearls and would like to view the range, and meet the team, without the pressure to buy. We are very much looking forward to continuing this into 2016.
Q: What are your business aims for 2016?
MR: Our aim for 2016 is to expand our reach further into the UK trade market, and to provide a friendly, good-value, family service to our customers. We introduce new items throughout the year and there will be show specials specific to IJL – our show specials last year were our best-sellers by far and IJL gave them the platform we needed to allow the trade to access them.
Q: What are your feelings on the UK jewellery industry in general?
MR: Feedback from retailers in the last year or so has generally been positive, we hope to see this continue this year. Offering value at all price points is key in allowing our customers to remain competitive in the market.