Jewels from the sea

SINCE TIME immemorial, pearls have been endowed with unparalleled elegance. Being cognizant of this, Christie’s calls forth one of the most significant collections of pearls ever to have appeared on the market at its forthcoming Contemporary Jewels and Watches sale in Dubai.

By Layla Haroon (Contributor)

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Published: Mon 28 Apr 2008, 12:23 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:45 PM

The 30 lot strong selection of ‘gem’ quality pearls, valued, researched and sought by specialist David Warren, are distinctly noteworthy due to their superb shape, beautiful colour and large size — the three major factors that influence collectors preference.

“Natural pearls and oil have distinct similarities,” says Warren, who is the Director of Jewellery Christie’s. “Both are dwindling resources that have great significance to people of the Gulf region and in each case it is hard to imagine the long term value falling. It is fitting that Christie’s will bring some of the rarest pearls back to the region that they originally came from, giving local collectors a wonderful chance to buy some of the finest gemstones in the world.”

In addition to the largest grey drop pearl so far recorded, estimated at $700,000-1,000,000, an exceedingly rare yellow to pinkish-orange natural pearl (estimate: $600,000-800,000) will be two of the major highlights of the display. This distinctive orange gem has been recorded as the 13th largest natural pearl worldwide.

Warren predicts that natural pearls will be a better long term investment than even gold.

“In appearance, what you should look for is a lustre or reflection that is so strong you can see your own face when you look at it,” he concludes.

With all gemstones, size is important, however it would be better to own a well formed pearl of attractive colour that has a good lustre with few spots on the skin, rather than once that is twice the size and an unattractive shape, with a poor lustre.

“Unlike cultured pearls, natural pearls are created when a grain of sand or a parasite enters the oyster,” explains Warren.

“It irritates the creatures’ delicate organs and to protect itself the oyster covers the parasite with a coating of nacre for the rest of its life thereby making a larger and larger pearl and creating a miracle of nature.”

“Whereas, cultured pearls are man made, the nacre of such pearls is only a few microns thick and will eventually wear off with frequent use over many years. Consequently the beauty of a natural pearl is beyond compare.”

Value of a pearl

As each pearl has a character of its own there are no easy lists (like that for diamonds) that can help you to establish a value. Understanding the worth and rarity of these precious pieces takes time but is extremely rewarding, Warren believes.

“ To find a perfectly formed drop shaped, round or button shaped pearl is extremely difficult and to find well matched pairs of drops is exceedingly rare, especially in large sizes.”

“The pearl market crashed at the beginning of the 20th century with the commercial production of cultured pearls,” says Warren.

“However, in recent years the value of natural pearls has increased sharply partly because of the over production of cultured pearls. They are one of the only gemstones that get rarer with time, as there is no new commercial supply. Moreover pearls, unlike most other gemstones, deteriorate over many hundreds of years. It is only a matter of time when collectors worldwide understand the true rarity of a fine pearl and prices should increase steadily,” he concludes.

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