INTERVIEW: GIA instructor Francesca Lawley talks cultured pearls ahead of IJL seminar

Gemological Institute of America instructor Francesca Lawley will host a seminar at International Jewellery London tomorrow (September 8) to discuss the value factors of cultured pearls. 

Professional Jeweller spoke to Lawley to find out what to expect from her talk and to discover the biggest misconceptions about cultured pearls she faces when educating brands and retailers…

Q: What will you be talking to IJL visitors about in your seminar and how do you think it will make them more informed in the long term?

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I will introduce IJL visitors to the fascinating world of pearls by touching on their history and explaining the difference between natural and cultured pearls and how they are formed. I’ll also address the four types of cultured pearls that dominate today’s market, giving insight into their characteristics and sources. The seminar will conclude with pearl care and cleaning tips and an overview of GIA’s 7 Pearl Value Factors (Size, Shape, Colour, Nacre, Luster, Surface and Matching).

Q: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about cultured pearls and do you think brands and retailers need to do more to ensure that they, and their customers, are informed about cultured pearls?

The biggest misconception about pearls is that they are easy to produce and therefore should be inexpensive. Although there are many thousands of cultured pearls farmed each year, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into starting and maintaining a pearl farm. It takes at least four to five years for a farm to produce any saltwater cultured pearls and can take up to 10 years before the farm shows a profit.

After cultured pearls are harvested, they must be cleaned, buffed and sometimes bleached or treated. They are then painstakingly matched and drilled to make a cultured pearl strand. This information is useful when it comes to sales and marketing because it helps inform customers about the journey a cultured pearl takes from the farm to the shop floor.

Q: The title of you seminar focuses on ‘Value Factors’ can you tell us a little bit more about this?

Value factors are used to assess the quality of a cultured pearl. GIA’s 7 Pearl Value Factors (Size, Shape, Colour, Nacre, Luster, Surface and Matching) can then help buyers and dealers determine a value for a cultured pearl. Luster, for example, is one of the most important factors for cultured pearls. Luster is the intensity and sharpness of the light reflected from a pearl’s surface. The more light that’s reflected the brighter and shiner the cultured pearl’s surface will appear, and therefore with all other six value factors being equal, the better the luster the more valuable the cultured pearl.

Francesca Lawley, GIA Instructor, Cultured Pearls and their Value Factors, September 8, 1pm – 2pm, London Room. To learn more about the GIA’s Graduate Pearls diploma programme, visit stand P50.



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