Akoya Pearl Prices Increase at Auctions

By Brigitte Sheung
Jewellery News Asia

MIE PREFECTURE, JAPAN - Average prices of fine quality Akoya pearls in all sizes increased between 10% and 30% at the annual auctions of hama-age, or unprocessed pearls, in Japan in 1997, processors and suppliers of Japanese Akoyas said.

The increase was a result of greatly reduced supply of high-quality goods after massive oyster mortality was reported during the Japanese harvests late last year.

The shortage of goods also resulted in the cancellation of some auctions, suppliers said.

"The number of auctions held for the season was fewer than in 1996," said Kazuyoshi Watanabe, executive director of the Japan Pearl Exporters Association. "It was reported that 109 auctions were held in 1997, while 127 were held in 1996."

The auctions were held from Jan.7 to Feb. 10.

"Quantity available at the auctions was limited, and overall quality was inferior compared with past auctions," said Vidhan Chaudhari, president of the Orient Pearl Co., Kobe, Japan. "Prices jumped to an unrealistic high level for the better goods at the beginning of the auctions, and the overall average increase was between 10% and 20%. Some processors bought lower-quality goods at high prices, too." Takezo Koyama, president of the Tokyo Pearl Co., said.

"Prices increased for medium- and good-quality pearls of all sizes, some increasing as much as 30% to 40%,"said Vidhan Chaudhari, president of Orient Pearl Co. Ltd. in Kobe.

Many pearl traders said, however, that in the context of weak sales of Akoya pearls, the price increase of raw pearls was too high to be completely absorbed by the slow market of processed pearls. Victor Russo, managing director of Ventura Gem & Pearl Co., Kobe, said he expected only a moderate price increase for processed pearls, in the face of market pressure.

"Processors have the pressure to buy at high prices because they have to keep production running," Russo said. "But trading companies of processed pearls are in no hurry to buy, particularly when they have substantial stock accumulated in the past four years when major markets were slow."

Andy Muller, director of Golay Buchel Japan, Kobe, said, "There are two markets: one for raw materials and one for finished products. It is still too early to comment on how and to what extent the price hike on raw pearls will affect the prices of processed pearls, which depend on the supply-and-demand situation regardless of costs."

The hama-age auctions were organized by the National Federation of Pearl Cultivators Cooperative Association and the Prefectural Federation of Fishermen's Cooperative Associations of Ehime.

South Sea Prices Remain Strong

The following article appears in the May 1, 1997 issue of National Jeweler.

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA - A total of 49,562 momme of South Sea cultured pearls was sold for $22.47 million - 23.7% above the reserve price - at the eighth Paspaley pearl auction, and the fourth in Hong Kong, in March 1997.

The results of the auction seem to show a continued rise in demand for South Sea pearls, which have become significantly more popular particularly in the United States.

Of the 400 lots offered, 357, or 89.2%, were sold.

A total of 55,720 momme, or 69,111 pearls, were offered. Reserve prices were in yen and the auction was conducted in yen.

One momme equals 3.75 grams.

The average price of a momme was $453, an 8% increase (in yen) compared with $481 in 1996. "Bidding among the 75 companies invited was strong for all sizes, shapes and qualities. Bidding was particularly strong for golden pearls. One lot of 90 Australian golden pearls, offered for open bidding, sold for 40 million yen, 90.4% above the reserve price of 2.1 million," said Nick Paspaley, managing director of Paspaley Pearling Co. Pty Ltd. in Darwin. "Prices for pearls with a yellowish tint, however, were relatively soft compared with other pearls."

Pearls offered were from Paspaley Pearling, as well as Shima Shokai Ltd., Nippo Pearl Co. Ltd. and Kyokko Industry Co. Ltd. in Japan and Cogent Trading Co. in Hong Kong.

"The quality offered was generally better than in 1996," said Yoshihiro Shimizu, chairman of Hosei Co. Ltd. in Kobe, Japan. "We bought large quantities in different qualities from 10mm to 17mm as well as we sell a wide range of different qualities."

"Overall supply of better quality South Sea pearls will remain limited until hatchery productions in Indonesia increase in quantity," Shimizu said. "We will continue buying large quantities of better quality Australian production."

Salvador Assael, chairman of Assael International, said: "We concentrated bidding on two categories: fine quality flawless round white pearls 10mm to 16mm and quality golden pearls, and we bought majority of the lots we bidded for."