23 Feb 2004
Prince of Pearls(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 01,2004)
Prince of Pearls
Yue San Jewellery Co Ltd
|Chinese Akoya pearls make up the bulk of Yue San Jewellery Co Ltd's pearl business, which concentrates on key markets such as the US, Europe and Japan|
With tough competition coming from Chinese mainland and Japanese firms, Hong Kong pearl maker Yue San Jewellery Co Ltd says the best strategy for survival is to do the best job possible.
"You have to know exactly what your clients are looking for, and memorise the details so that when they come to the office you can prepare suitable goods," advises general manager Cissy Wong.
Yue San has been selling and processing Chinese Akoya pearls and selling freshwater pearls for more than 12 years. Two years ago, after changing its name to the present one, and bringing Wong on board, the firm turned its focus overseas and ventured into markets in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea.
During its first year in the world arena, Yue San specialised in higher-priced Chinese Akoya pearl strings (US$150 FOB Hong Kong and up) but, says Wong, the sluggish global economy pushed Yue San to offer lower-priced Chinese Akoya pearl strings (priced from US$25).
"Price is something you have to be very careful with. It can change as quickly as the price of seafood. You have to catch on to the market price or else you will be caught out," says Wong.
Yue San's Chinese Akoyas, which make up the bulk of its pearls, come from a pearl farm in the mainland province of Guangxi run as a joint venture between Yue San and a mainland company. During the summer and winter harvests, monthly production totals 2,000-3,000 pearl strings and a few kilograms of loose pearls. Freshwater pearls come from suppliers in the northern mainland.
It is becoming increasingly harder to distinguish Chinese Akoya pearls from freshwater pearls, says Wong. "Traditionally, freshwater pearls were shaped like a rice kernel, now they are becoming rounder."
Although pearl companies closely guard their processing methods, Wong reveals that Yue San employs a Japanese method designed largely to prevent pearls from turning black or yellow quickly.
"The hardest part of the production process is the stringing," says Wong. Yue San's pearls range from 4-8mm and are sold either loose or in temporary strings, although necklaces can also be tailor-made. It keeps a large stock on hand for unexpected orders. "When you string pearls, composition is very important. Otherwise, if you are not careful, you might have one pearl with thick coating and another with thin coating," she explains.
Yue San, which has annual sales of more than US$2.5m, has found another way to stay ahead of the competition, offering a standard length of 16 inches for its strings of pearls. "Many of the small companies do not offer enough length," says Wong.
Overall, she is positive about the future of Yue San. "I believe there will always be a certain demand for our kind of pearls in the market because we can provide the same quality and same grading every time," she says.
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Yue San Jewellery Co Ltd
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