By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
The ultra-feminine conch pearl has charmed traders and collectors alike for many years. In an era that celebrates individuality and rarity more than ever, these pink gems with porcelain-like lustre, continue to gain buyers’ undivided attention.
Today’s discerning buyers gravitate towards products that are rare and steeped in character and authenticity.
It’s no wonder that conch pearls – defined by the Gemological Institute of America as “calcareous concretions” produced by the queen conch mollusk, Strombus gigas, which is found in various areas of the Caribbean – are highly favoured in the market.
Although conch pearls are available in a range of colours, the pink variant is the most appealing, thanks to its captivating flame structure.
Yuji Takano, president of conch pearl specialist Kashikey Hong Kong Ltd, revealed that demand for conch pearls remains solid especially from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Top-quality conch pearls with superior colour and flame are extremely sought after but supply is tight, particularly for stones of 5 carats and above, resulting in high prices.
Kashikey started its conch pearl business in 1993 when the market was virtually unaware of the existence of these pink pearl-like gems. Since its inception, the company has steadily promoted and marketed conch pearls to the global gemstone and jewellery sector.
As the market becomes more knowledgeable about conch pearls and their unique appeal, the demand for high-end items started exceeding supply, with prices rising by 15 percent to 20 percent from a year ago for top-grade items. Medium-range products saw a 5 percent to 10 percent upsurge in prices.
Kashikey mainly deals with buyers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, with India emerging as a potential market.
Takano said India, a global leader in diamond manufacturing, is also known for its jewellery production expertise. Jewellers, he stated, are capitalising on Indian buyers’ penchant for sophisticated gold and gem-set jewellery pieces, including those embellished with exceptional gems such as conch pearls.
“Promoting conch pearls in India was not easy but there is definitely potential in this market. Buyers are starting to understand conch pearls. We have actually started doing business with some Indian companies,” noted Takano.
According to Takano, the probability of finding a conch pearl is about one in 10,000; chancing upon a gem-quality conch pearl is even rarer.
Apart from its rarity, a conch pearl’s pink colour – further enhanced by a flame structure that gives it a smooth, silk-like appearance – makes it highly desirable among jewellery makers and end consumers.
Despite challenges in the business, price-conscious customers who are partial to outstanding pieces would still ask for high-quality conch pearls, noted Takano.