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Miami Beach Antique Show brings auction to Jasper52 March 30

On March 30, Jasper52 will present an auction loaded with choice items exclusively from the prestigious Miami Beach Antique Show. From iconic Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra jewelry to an exquisite museum-quality clock and garniture set, this special online auction features only the best in jewelry, watches, decorative art and fine art.

Patek Philippe women’s 18K rose gold and diamond Twenty~4 quartz wristwatch, ref. 4908/11R. Estimate $23,000-$28,000. Jasper52 image

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Clearing the air on Bakelite collectibles

Billed as the “material of a thousand uses,” Bakelite went into commercial production in 1922.

An article in the October 1925 issue of the trade publication Plastics magazine claimed the new synthetic phenolic resin could be used for “jewelry, smokers’ articles … sealing electric light bulbs in metal bases … varnishes … electric coils, lacquers … silent gears … and molding material, from which are formed innumerable articles of utility and beauty.” We know that resin today as Bakelite, named after its inventor, Leo Baekeland, the chemist whose process was patented in 1909.

The scientific name, though, is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, “a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin, formed from a condensation reaction of phenol with formaldehyde,” according to a Wikipedia entry. This revolutionary new type of phenolic resin, or synthetic plastic, was heat resistant, did not conduct electricity, was completely insoluble, totally inflexible and much more economical to produce in large quantities than celluloid, the plastic of the time. It was perfect for molding articles of utility such as insulators, military equipment, automobile parts and the early rotary dial telephone.

The case of this Wards Airline brand tabletop radio is made of molded Bakelite. Image coutesy of Goldfinch Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The first tabletop radio, though, was one of the first items that was both an article of utility and of beauty when introduced in dark brown, black and dark marbled Bakelite. While not exactly a decorator choice, the darker colors concealed the use of cotton, paper, glass fabrics, nylon, canvas, linen, sawdust, fiber and even asbestos to strengthen an otherwise brittle compound.

But, if darker tones represented early Bakelite, how is it jewelry and other items made of lighter, mostly primary colors are commonly sold as Bakelite? Because those items are made of Catalin.

The 1940s FADA brand tabletop radio is a prized collector’s item for its Catalin case in butterscotch with red trim. Image courtesy of Clarke Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

Known as a cast phenol formaldehyde resin, Catalin, created in 1927, is a thermosetting polymer not unlike Bakelite, except the production is in two stages, where Bakelite requires more of a multistage curing process. More importantly, Catalin was transparent allowing the use of color or mixture of colors during the manufacturing process. Jewelry, bangles, beads, brooches, tableware and other useful household items are made of Catalin, although it is usually identified as Bakelite to collectors.

There are key differences in Bakelite and Catalin. As was mentioned, Bakelite is manufactured with fillers and produced in darker colors to disguise the fillers making the item more stable over time. Bakelite also has a heavier feel.

Different examples of Bakelite and Catalin bangles with plain, worked and laminated versions that sold at auction for $300. Image courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

On the other hand, Catalin, because of its shorter manufacturing process is lighter but less stable and eventually will crack or craze. Early colorful radios from FADA and Emerson made from Catalin, for example, tend to warp, while the colors tend to darken over time with white turning to yellow.

Bracelets in vibrant green, yellow, red or combined shades laminated together for a more colorful style are the most desired in their original shade, with figurals in the shape of plants, animals and flowers easily the most sought after by collectors.

Other Early Plastics

Collectors will occasionally find other early plastic-like material advertised at auction. Some were experimental before Bakelite or Catalin and others just had small production runs. They are no longer being manufactured, but turn up as collectibles.

Early celluloid was generally used for household items such as the handle for this German-made straight razor, which depicting a zeppelin flying over a city. Image courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans and Associates and LiveAuctioneers

Celluloid is considered the first true thermoplastic when it was marketed as Parkesine in 1856 and Xylonite in 1869. It is made from a compound of nitrocellulose and camphor which is quite flammable. The covering over early political buttons, billiard balls, film stock until 1950, and vintage ivory-like handles were made with celluloid. Pingpong balls and some guitar picks are still made from celluloid today.

Political buttons like this rare William Jennings Bryan/John W. Kern pocket mirror of 1900 used celluloid as an overlay. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

By 1880 Crystalate, invented by George Henry Burt, from nitrocellulose, camphor and alcohol, was based on an earlier form of plastic known as bonzoline. Crystalate was used mostly for gramaphone records and billiard balls and has long since been discontinued.

Faturan, possibly named for chemist Esmaeel Almail Faturan in the early 19th century originally mixed natural resins to form worry beads (komboloi) and counting beads (misbaha). A synthetic version made by Traun & Son, a German company, was made from early 20th century to the 1940s. Original Faturan, though, eventually oxides to a dark red no matter the original color and is rare as a collectible.

Galalith is a late 19th century plastic that utilized casein (found in milk) and formaldehyde to form a milky white hard plastic, but once set it could not be molded. By World War II, production was dramatically reduced to save milk for civilian use. Fashion designer Coco Chanel utilized galalith as costume jewelry and is still being produced mostly as buttons. Galalith emits a milky smell when rubbed.

Micarta is a phenolic resin like the others, but was used as a laminate over linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Developed by George Westinghouse by 1910, it was used to make knife handles, handgun grips, pool cues, hardhats and early fan blades. Micarta is usually dark in color.

Virtually all of these early plastics have been either discontinued or have limited industrial use since the 1950s due to its labor-intensive mold and casting process. Yet, auction results seem to treat these early plastics similarly when it comes to collector value, except Faturan which has become more of a museum piece due to its rarity.

‘Fakelite’

There are contemporary plastics that resemble Bakelite, so-called “Fakelites” that are treated differently. These fakes have similar design and production methods as Bakelite and are hard to spot except on close examination. Veteran collectors know the uniquely identifiable “clunk” sound that two pieces of vintage Bakelite make when tapped together. Bakelite also feels heavier. Collectors sometimes use the hot water method to test for authentic Bakelite (dip in hot water, rub and test for the smell of formaldehyde) or the 409 method (just a touch of Formula 409 cleaner or Simichrome brand polish on a cotton swab on a hidden area and the swab should turn yellow; rinse the item immediately). You can just dry rub it as well and smell the telltale formaldehyde (works best with dark Bakelite).

Vintage Bakelite may also have been reworked, recut or redesigned without being marked as such. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is a fake or even a reproduction and its auction value isn’t compromised, but it may be judged differently from its original use. Just be warned that reworking Bakelite yourself produces the harmful effects from the phenol and formaldehyde used in its manufacture.

As it turns out, whether wearing Catalin bangles from Coco Chanel or listening to big bands on an Emerson Bakelite radio, whatever you call it, they’re equally collectible.

Resources

Baker, L. Plastic Jewelry of the 20th Century, 2003

Holdsworth, Ian, Cast Phenolic Resin, Plastics Historical Society, plastiquarian.com, undated

Meikle, Jeffrey L., American Plastic: A Cultural History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995

Wiggins, Pamela, Collecting Bakelite Jewelry, sprucecrafts.com, April 4, 2014

Wiggins, Pamela, 6 Ways to Identify Bakelite, sprucecrafts.com, August 24, 2018

Wikipedia.com, Bakelite, undated

Jasper52 auction devoted to designer jewelry Jan. 23

The world’s top jewelry designers are represented in an exclusive Jasper52 fine jewelry auction to be conducted Wednesday, Jan. 23. Approximately 370 lots of gold necklaces, diamond earrings, brooches, charms and pendants will cross the auction block.

Vintage Tiffany 18K gold textured bangle bracelet, 51 grams. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

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David Jerome Collection rings available in Jasper52 auction Nov. 7

Jewelry designer David Jerome has spent much of his life, traveling the world, amassing a breathtaking collection of the rarest and purest rubies, aquamarine, tanzanites, emeralds and sapphires. The David Jerome Collection is formed of hundreds of prized gems. Ethically sourced directly from precious gemstone mines all around the world, only the finest stones have been selected for the collection, which have been transformed into stunningly beautiful rings. Thirty-nine of these rings will be offered in a Jasper52 online auction Nov. 7.


Unheated 2.16 carat round brilliant cut sapphire and diamond ring, set in 18K white gold and mounted with 0.88 carats of diamonds. Estimate $10,000-$15,000. Jasper52 image

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Sept. 4 auction showcases luxe array of antique to modern jewelry

Whether you’re looking for a classic diamond tennis bracelet, a head-turning emerald necklace or an antique heirloom, you’ll find it in Jasper52’s Antique to Modern Jewelry auction on Tuesday, September 4. Bid absentee now or live online on auction day exclusively through LiveAuctioneers.

1920s Art Deco bracelet, platinum-topped 18K gold with mine-cut and rose-cut diamonds, sapphire accents. Est. $9,000-$11,000

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Select fine jewelry and bullion headline Jasper52 specialty auction, Aug. 28

There is no mistaking the look of old, high-carat gold and diamonds. For centuries they’ve been prized for their beauty, especially when paired in an exquisitely crafted setting — whether a queen’s crown, an engagement ring, or a favorite piece of inherited jewelry. Jasper52 has prepared an especially fine selection of gold jewelry, bullion and silver creations for its 118-lot auction slated for August 28. Whether you’re seeking a sophisticated signature piece or investment gold, you’ll find it in this sale, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.

Sophisticated 22ct gold tassel necklace, purity 916/1000. Est. $2,500-$3,000

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Baltic Amber Jewelry: more than meets the eye

It has often been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of Baltic amber, humans have admired and appreciated it since the early Stone Age, also known as the Paleolithic Period. That’s millions of years of beauty for millions of people to behold. Cultures and societies may have arisen and changed dramatically since cave man days, but the composition of Baltic amber and peoples’ fascination with it hasn’t.

This hand-carved translucent honey-colored Baltic amber piece contains various insects, including flies, spiders, ants, and a beetle. It is paired with an antique sterling silver chain to form a unique pendant. Image courtesy Jasper52

“The interest in the Baltic amber is growing everyday,” said Kazimieras Mizgiris, co-founder (with his wife Virginija) of a pair of museums focused on amber, including the Art Center of Baltic Amber, located in Vilinius, Lithuania. “Baltic amber has always been attractive to people. It was only 5,000 years ago that people used to work in the Baltic Sea for the production of amulets. Amber is warm, spreading good energy, and it glistens in the sun, Mizgiris said.

In the simplest terms, Baltic amber is resin from pine trees that has fossilized. It is not just any pine tree that produces this resin; it is specific to pines that grow in Northern Europe and regions surrounding the Baltic Sea. This particular resin contains more than 40 different compounds, most specifically, succinic acid. According to information on Mizgiris’ website, http://www.ambergallery.lt/, these naturally occurring acids possess attributes that may heal various forms of discomfort, such as wounds and cuts, tooth pain, headaches, and general inflammation within the body.

12 stones of honey-colored Baltic amber form this bracelet, which weighs 27 grams. Image courtesy Five Star Auctions & Appraisals.

Many believe that simply wearing objects that contain Baltic amber may benefit the wearer. Various sources report that when Baltic amber necklaces are worn, their stones or beads are warmed by body heat and release small amounts of succinic acid when warmed by body heat.

Amber and Aromatherapy: According to various sources including The Poland Import Export Chamber of Commerce site, Baltic amber played a role in limiting the death toll from the plague during the Middle Ages. When it was discovered that those who worked with Baltic amber on a regular basis did not fall victim to the disease, it was used to fumigate residences and businesses.

Vintage gold and Baltic amber ring. Image courtesy John Nicholson Auctioneers

With the longstanding connection between Baltic amber and wellness practices, it’s not surprising that evidence of amber jewelry has been discovered among ancient remnants in the advanced civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the Baltic region. While the most common color of amber, as one might expect, is its namesake shade of yellow or white yellow, it’s not the only shade seen in amber. In fact, amber comes in seven colors and more than 250 shades.

Amber Fact: Annually for the past 25 years, thousands of people from around the world have gathered in Amberif Gdańsk, Poland, to discuss and display their shared interest in Baltic amber at a trade shown known as AMBERIF. The acronym stands for Amber International Fair.

Art Deco Baltic amber jewelry box made of wood and featuring tiles of natural butterscotch-color Baltic amber on top and honey-colored amber slabs along the sides. Its metal plaque indicates a manufacturer located in Königsberg, Prussia made it. Image courtesy Jasper52.

The opportunity to view an extensive selection of Baltic amber is not limited to those in attendance at AMBERIF. In Lithuania, a hub of Baltic amber history and processing, there are multiple museums devoted to the fossilized tree resin. The Amber Gallery-Museum is located in Nida, Lithuania, while the Amber Museum-Gallery is located within the Art Center of Baltic Amber, in Vilinius, Lithuania. The Mizgiris’ opened the museum in Nida in 1991, while the museum in Vilinius opened its doors in 1998. The Art Center of Baltic Amber opened seven years later. Every year, according to Mizgiris, each of the locations welcomes more than 50,000 visitors. In addition to presenting a variety of displays of Baltic amber, the museums and the center present educational activities and demonstrations of amber processing.

This set of three Baltic amber bead bracelets, yellow/white in color, weights 28.3 grams. Image courtesy Jasper52

Interest in Baltic amber, including natural specimens and pieces incorporated into jewelry or decorative art, is drawing attention worldwide. Whether the interest is scientific in nature, an aspect of collecting, or appreciation for and interest in jewelry and jewelry making, Baltic amber continues to tell its story, while also providing opportunities for more people to incorporate this unique form of nature’s artistry into their lives.

Jasper52 showcasing premium quality vintage jewelry June 5

Vintage and antique pieces mingle beautifully in a Premium Jewelry Auction that will be conducted Tuesday, June 5, by Jasper52. Colorful cocktail rings, storied mourning jewelry and even an iconic Hammerman Brothers vintage starfish brooch are prime examples of the diversity celebrated in this special sale.

14K gold and diamond bracelet, 1950s, 6.5 total carat weight, near-mint condition. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

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Charming: Bracelets with Timeless Appeal

As much as a society and its tastes may change, some things remain the same and seem never to lose their appeal. Such is the case with charm bracelets.

These beautiful wrist adornments with talismans that represent facets of the wearers’ character are not a new phenomenon. The earliest examples date back to the Neolithic period, with Egyptian pharaohs being among the first to don wrist jewelry with precious stones and metals fashioned as unique shapes and figures.

In Ancient Egypt, charm bracelets were not merely a stylish choice; they were part of the people’s efforts to protect themselves, indicate their social status, and as an extra measure, to help position them in the proper societal status in the afterlife. That’s a lot to ask of a piece of jewelry, but the Egyptians were not the only ones who thought charm bracelets were up to the task.

14K yellow gold bracelet, stamped ‘Made in France,’ features seven charms including a cat, dog with ruby eyes, horse head with ruby eye, letter ‘E’ with single cut diamonds and rubies, pail with gemstones and hen bell with diamonds and ruby cabochons, 7-1/4 in., 96.2g. Sold for $24,000 during a May 2018 auction. Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

During the period of the Roman Empire, early Christians wore a hidden charm depicting a fish that would be revealed to fellow Christians as a sign of acknowledgment of the faith. Even during the Middle Ages, a time of great upheaval and societal change, knights and royalty would regularly wear charms and amulets for additional protection. They weren’t only seen as superstitious tokens to ward off evil; the charms and amulets also served an important purpose of identifying one’s family origin, profession and even political affiliation.

Not surprisingly, during the reign of Queen Victoria of England, charm bracelets transitioned from practical, utilitarian objects to a fashionable accessory. Just before the start of the 20th century, luxury goods icon Tiffany and Co., unveiled its first charm bracelet. The link bracelet featured a single heart suspended from the chain. Despite the challenges of the Great Depression, jewelers began adding platinum and diamond elements to charm bracelets in the 1920s and 1930s.

Military gold charm bracelet with five different medals, 5½ in. long, 16.1 dwt. Sold for $600 during an April 2018 auction. David Killen Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

The trend of charm bracelets continued as the world recovered from World War II. For the first time, a large segment of the U.S. population was introduced to trinkets, products and garments made by artisans in foreign lands, courtesy of returning soldiers. Charms were one example, and they became a tangible record of the wearers’ travels or dream destinations. It also sparked an increase in the number of jewelers opting to get into the business of charm creation.

Charm bracelets, like other articles of fashion, were also indicators of the changing interests and societal advancements. They were featured as prizes in coin-operated machines in the mid-20th century, owing to their popularity with the younger set.

Early 20th century platinum and 14K gold charm cuff bangle bracelet, surmounted with 30 gold and platinum whimsical charms set with old European, single and baguette cut diamonds, rubies, star sapphire and emeralds among others. 97.8g, 6½ in. diameter. Sold for $8,500 during an April 2015 auction. Dallas Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, charm bracelets appeared and reappeared a bit like the ocean tide. As they say, everything old is new again, and maybe yet again. Current interest in charm bracelets appears to span all age ranges, cultures, interests and economic levels. The charm bracelet is also considered a crossover collectible. You don’t have to be a collector of jewelry to appreciate a bracelet featuring charms representing elements of astronomy, pop-culture characters, sports, music, flowers or animals.

The subjects depicted in the charms have never been as diverse as they are now. With national jewelers such as Pandora, Zales and Kay Jewelers; noted designers including Alex & Ani, Juicy Couture, Betsey Johnson and Michael Kors; and legends of luxury like Cartier and Tiffany and Co., producing them, there seem to be charms available for nearly every interest and occasion.

New charm bracelets, depending on material, jeweled accents and intricacy of charms, range in price from $30 to upward of $1,000. On the secondary auction market, the prices vary, but online prices realized show a range of $10 to $200,000. Also, as of this writing, at least 100 lots featuring charm bracelets are set to sell in auctions listed on LiveAuctioneers.

Solid 14K white and yellow gold handbag bracelet charm with diamond accents on the front of the charm, finished with a pierced heart and filigree details on back, 2.1g. Sold for $120 during an April 2018 auction. GWS Auctions Inc. and Live Auctioneers image

With present-day wearers of charm bracelets combining vintage charms rich in sentimental value or a classic look with contemporary designs and elements, today’s most appealing charm bracelets seem to include mementos of past generations. For some wearers, charm bracelets may represent the opportunity to pay homage and draw on the strength and character of ancestors. For others it may signify a sense of belonging to a particular group or mindset, or indicate their stops along life’s journey and the places they long to see. Whatever the reason may be, wearing a charm bracelet is always a stylish statement.

# # #

When you think of celebrities who wear charm bracelets, your first thought probably isn’t of legendary American sharpshooter Annie Oakley. But one of the gifts Oakley received from her husband, Frank E. Butler, was a charm bracelet consisting of small gold pipes, with a spring-blade clasp and safety chain. Like most owners of charm bracelets, Oakley reported added to her bracelet while keeping with a singular theme – gold coins. Each charm on her bracelet was a British or American coin, including an 1873 half sovereign and an 1873 half eagle.

Annie Oakley’s gold coin charm bracelet sold for $200,000 (hammer price) in 2013. Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

The first coin charm on Oakley’s bracelet was given to her in 1885 by the U.S. Cartridge Co. The rest were gifts from friends and family, including fellow competitive shooters, the secretary general of France, and W.F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The coin given to Oakley by Cody bears his engraved initials. While the bracelet wasn’t something she wore daily, there is photographic evidence of her wearing it on various occasions.

Not unlike her fellow wearers of charm bracelets, Annie Oakley held a special place in her heart and wardrobe for her bracelet. It was reported that in a show of support for the war effort she had nearly all of her silver and gold medals and trophies melted down to buy Liberty Bonds. However, the sentimental attachment Oakley had to her charm bracelet (which had a weight of about 1.35 troy ounces) made it something she chose to keep in her possession.

In 2013, during a Heritage Auctions’ sale, Annie Oakley’s gold coin charm bracelet sold for $200,000.

Pearl Wisdom: Natural and Man-Made

At first glance, pearls may seem simple and uncomplicated, but there’s much more to their story than meets the eye.

There are two general classes of pearls: natural or man-made. Natural pearls are created by a living organism as a result of irritation. It occurs when a foreign object like a piece of shell or bone, or even another living thing, becomes stuck within an invertebrate with a soft shell, such as an oyster or mussel. In an act of protecting itself, the host organism begins to cover the foreign element in nacre, a crystalline material secreted by the organism. Over time, built-up layers of nacre cover the irritant. Because the process is not tied to any particular time schedule, the result is a product whose pattern, sheen, color, and dimensions are unique. Each natural pearl has its own individual identity.

Bulgari two-strand choker necklace with ruby rondelle beads and cultured pearls, 18K yellow gold clasp. Auctioned by Clars Auction Gallery for $70,000 + buyer’s premium on Feb. 19, 2012. Clars and LiveAuctioneers image

Man-made pearls, which do not rely on nature to take its course, are far more common than their natural counterparts. Also, pearl harvesting has been an ongoing pursuit for generations, so discoveries of old pearls are far less common than in the past.

Jewelry dealer and pearl appraiser Deborah Boskin, owner of db Designs, explained the effect that diminished supply has had on the pearl market. “The increase in interest and resale value for natural pearls has steadily grown over the past two decades,” she said.

This makes it an opportune time to sell natural pearls or turn one’s focus toward cultured pearls, which are available and affordable.   

Pearl Fact: Fewer than one in every 10,000 oysters produces a natural pearl of significant value.

To meet the growing demand for pearls, the practice of culturing pearls began in the late 19th century. It was the innovation of Kokichi Mikimoto that led to production of the first cultured pearls. After witnessing the depletion of oysters due to overharvesting in the waters near his homeland of Japan, Mikimoto sought to devise a process that would produce man-made, or cultured, pearls. Mikimoto achieved his goal in July of 1893 when he was able to culture a semi-spherical pearl, according to information from the Mikimoto website.

As explained on mikimotoamerica.com, cultured pearls transformed the opportunity of acquiring a pearl “from a chance to a certainty.” Not unlike nature’s process of creating a pearl, cultured pearls begin with a foreign object invading the tissue of an oyster. However, the object is placed inside the oyster by a technician, thus forcing the living organism to begin the process of coating the foreign element with nacre, according to information found at PurePearls.com. The process of creating cultured pearls may take place in either fresh or saltwater.

Opening oysters, extracting and cleaning pearls found inside, near the seaside town of Xiamen, China. Photo by Gauthier Delecroix, Creative Commons image.

Cultivating pearls in saltwater may take anywhere from 18 months to three years, while cultured pearls formed in freshwater settings, including lakes, rivers, and ponds, may be harvested as soon as two years after the process has commenced, says PurePearls.com.

Cultured seawater pearls generally come from one of three locations, which is also a definition of the type of pearl. Akoya cultured pearls are the most common and best known. These pearls are produced in Japan and China; while South Sea cultured pearls are produced in the waters off Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Tahitian cultured pearls are cultivated around the islands of French Polynesia, most specifically Tahiti.

Pearl Fact: Archeological records reveal Mesopotamia was where natural pearls were discovered and first viewed as collectible gems. This took place around 2300 B.C., according to information obtained at the National Geographic website.

As fashion and cultural standards have changed, so, too, has the position of importance held by pearls.

Diamond and seed pearl necklace with central saltwater pearl measuring 60 centimeters. Auctioned for £1,300 ($1,600) in November 2017. Fellows and LiveAuctioneers image.

“For quite a while, every young woman owned and wore her cultured pearl strand as one of her primary pieces of jewelry. Japanese Akoya cultured pearls, both in graduated and uniform bead necklaces, were the status quo. Think of outfits in the 1950s and you can picture it,” Boskin said. “In the ’60s, styles began to change, and in the ’80s, South Sea cultured pearls came on strong. In the past few decades, people were inheriting cultured pearls necklaces from their grandmothers, aunts and mothers, but no one was wearing them, or buying them. On the secondary market, their value went down. There were too many sellers and too few buyers.”

She went on to say, “For South Sea pearls, the market was incredibly strong in both retail and secondary markets. The larger the pearl, the better, and people could own so many varieties – white, black, golden, bronze, pistachio colors in round, baroque and mixed strands,” Boskin continued. “Then in the 2000’s, the Chinese freshwater pearls being created began to be larger, rounder and with higher luster. Because they looked similar enough to South Sea pearls but were far less expensive, the South Sea market became quite soft. Today, the secondary market for cultured pearls overall seems to be slowly building back up.”

Although seawater cultured pearls are represented by a variety of types, these types are far less common than freshwater cultured pearls. Cultured pearls produced in seawater make up less than 10 percent of the global cultured pearl production, according to information found on the National Geographic website. In addition, seawater cultured pearls often have a higher value than freshwater pearls. Pearl farmers cultivating pearls in freshwater sources use mussels rather than oysters as the host, and they are able to insert a greater number of irritants into a single mussel, resulting in some 50 pearls at a time.

Baroque pearl and silver-inlay necklace. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image

Pearl Facts: Pearl shapes and colors continue to evolve with technological advancements. Despite what may seem to be the case, the majority of cultured pearls are baroque, which simply means they are not round traditional pearls, but unique in shape.

If all this talk about pearls, natural and cultured, is igniting an interest in you to learn more, Boskin offers a few words of advice, starting with “buy what you love.” While jewelry does hold value, it is a relative value. It may not sell later for as much as its purchase price or insured “value.” Everything is continent on the whims of the market at any given point in time.

A final gem of wisdom about collecting pearls, natural or cultured, is to look for the best luster possible, Boskin said. Not only does luster enhance the beauty of a pearl, it tends to make the pearl more valuable.

Contact Deborah Boskin at http://www.deborahboskin.com.