14 March 2007
Pearl Jewellery(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 01,2007)
|Chinese freshwater pearls and peridot adorn this rhodium-plated sterling silver necklace, earring and bracelet set from Ming Fai Pearl Co|
Pearls have qualities that no other gemstone can match. Warm, organic and born of the sea, they possess an almost ethereal beauty that ensures pearls simply enchant while other gemstones merely dazzle.
Situated in one of the world's major pearl trading centres, Hong Kong companies know their pearls - from the wondrous variety of Chinese freshwater pearls farmed in neighbouring mainland provinces to the famed giants of the sea, South Sea pearls.
The latter is a particular customer favourite at Carat Jewellery Ltd, which also crafts jewellery using Chinese freshwater, Akoya and keshi pearls. "Customers like South Sea pearls because they're the most expensive," says marketing executive Fion Wong, adding that the firm sources the gemstones from Australia.
Eighteen-karat gold ring and earring sets featuring South Sea pearls, diamonds and coloured gemstones are priced from US$1,500-4,000 FOB Hong Kong per piece, although 14K gold settings can also be ordered.
"We usually use one large pearl as the centre stone," Wong adds, noting that necklace, earring and ring sets are the best sellers and that some jewellery is handmade while other pieces are cast.
Gemstones in soft, pastel colours such as fancy coloured sapphires or morganite give the 16-year-old company's pearl jewellery added multicoloured flair.
Pearl jewellery accounts for 30% of the 1,000 or so pieces of jewellery that Carat Jewellery manufactures per month at its mainland factories in Panyu and Zhongshan.
The OEM/ODM firm designs pearl jewellery that bears its Carat brand primarily for consumers aged 30 years and above. "We do both daytime and night-time styles, but our daytime jewellery sells better," Wong says.
A younger, trendier line called KWG that puts the emphasis on Chinese freshwater pearls, diamonds and semiprecious stones sells for US$600-1,500 FOB Hong Kong per item.
No minimum order applies and deliveries are ready for shipment 1-2 months after order confirmation. "Major markets include the US, Europe, Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South America," Wong says.
Chinese freshwater pearl specialist Ming Fai Pearl Co is known for combining pearls and gemstones such as peridot, blue topaz, rose quartz, tiger's-eye and tourmaline in rhodium-plated sterling silver settings. "We used to use just pearls but we found that our customers liked the gemstone and pearl look," says manager Vivian Leung.
Pearl jewellery featuring white pearls is Ming Fai's top attraction, followed by natural pink and peach-coloured pearls, or a combination of natural purple and white pearls.
The quality of the pearls is A-grade or better in favoured sizes of 6-7mm, and laser-treated black pearls and pearls dyed blue, pink and brown are also available.
The OEM/ODM company produces 10,000 pieces of pearl jewellery each month at its mainland factory in Hai Fung, with necklace and earring sets firm favourites in Ming Fai's largest market, Europe.
Ming Fai, which also sells to Australia, the US and Asia, charges US$50-300 FOB Hong Kong per piece for its necklaces and US$25-180 per pair of earrings.
"Our designs are young to trendy and our target market is 25-40 year olds," Leung says, adding that the minimum order is 50 pieces delivered 2-3 weeks after order confirmation.
Bigger, bolder jewellery featuring more pearls is the latest fashion trend. "Our necklaces have lots of pearls, especially for the summer season, because people want the pearls to be noticed," she adds.
The company plans to introduce a new 9K and 14K gold jewellery line of pearl and diamond jewellery this year. "We would like to move higher up in value," Leung explains.
Strands of Chinese freshwater pearls are the best-selling item at Rio Pearl, but the company also makes expert use of Akoyas and the full range of South Sea pearl colours - black, white, golden and grey - in its pearl jewellery.
A simple, uncluttered look is a hallmark of the company's design style, says manager Regina Yeung. "Generally, we use only 1-3 pearls per piece," she notes. "We're aiming for the 18-40 year old market."
The 24-year-old firm ODM subcontracts to a factory in Panyu and manufactures 200-500 pieces per month. "We do both handmade and cast," Yeung explains. "For some unusual designs, we might do only one or two pieces."
A pair of Akoya pearl earrings with diamonds in 14K or 18K gold, Rio Pearl's most popular type of pearl jewellery, sells for US$150-600 FOB Hong Kong.
Eighteen-karat gold is reserved for jewellery with South Sea pearls, most of which are in 9-15mm sizes, while accent gemstones can include blue or fancy coloured sapphires or yellow or blue topaz.
Chinese freshwater 16-inch pearl strands sell for US$100-400 FOB Hong Kong for minimum orders of 10-20 pieces, delivered four weeks after order confirmation to Rio Pearl's major export markets in the US, Europe, the mainland and the UAE.
With so many kinds and qualities of pearls from which to choose, it's no wonder that Hong Kong has long been known as the Pearl of the Orient.
WRITTEN BY PEARL KINCAID