Articles / Let's Take an Exotic Trip to the South Seas

The rich, lustrous color and iridescence of golden South Sea pearls evokes images of romantic, faraway places. But, even more elusive than a trip to the exotic South Seas is the ability for the average jewelry connoisseur to own a perfectly matched, top-quality necklace of 13mm South Sea pearls, which can easily sell for $200,000 or more. But today, you can own a little piece of paradise by purchasing a breathtaking golden South Sea pearl in a ring or pendant, or a pair of these lovelies in a stunning earring design. Set alone or with diamond accents, these designs focus on the color and beauty of golden pearls.

Grown primarily on a few dozen farms in the Philippines and Indonesia, golden South Sea pearls are extremely rare. It takes between two and three years to grow a golden South Sea pearl and when they emerge from the shell of a special golden-lipped oyster variety called the Pinctada maxima, pearls are typically 10 to 13mm in size and reveal beautiful colorations from light champagne to lustrous gold. In addition, they have a much stronger and thicker nacre than their Akoya counterparts. (Nacre is the natural secretion that a mollusk uses to protect itself from a foreign substance that has entered its shell. Many layers of nacre have a crystalline structure that give the pearl its iridescence.)

Post production, golden pearls are sold at auction or sometimes directly to pearl dealers and jewelry manufacturers in lots of 100 to 200 pieces. Because a 16-inch necklace of 12mm golden South Sea pearls is comprised of 34 pieces, a 100-piece lot would, theoretically, only make three necklaces. Unfortunately, a single lot rarely provides 34 matched pieces, thereby the pearl dealer must collect pearls over many seasons to have an inventory broad enough to create a matched necklace. Naturally, this rarity contributes to the high price.

Over the past few years, the high end of the pearl market has been dominated by the higher-profile black Tahitian pearls, another stunning large millimeter variety. But there are signs that the market for golden pearls is growing, especially with a drop in price in recent years due to a sluggish world economy.

David WeissDavid Weiss

Graduate Gemologist, GIA
Certified Appraiser