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Indonesia’s finest pearls
| September 06, 2016, 04:22:42 PM
By: Niken Prathivi

Bling-bling: Exclusive jewelry is given center stage at the Mutumanikam Nusantara jewelry exhibition in Jakarta, with the tricolor pearl necklace and bracelet (left) priced at Rp 30 million (US$3,333) and the multicolor necklace costing Rp 28 million. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Prominent fashion designer Ghea Panggabean says that she sees positive developments from local jewelers in creating and producing more fashionable and attractive pearl jewelry.

“They get more creative in putting the pearls into good jewelry. Lombok has fantastic pearls,” Ghea told.

“I’ve also seen a jeweler who emptied a filling of baroque pearls, meaning that the pearls got lighter, and I think it’s good for the international market,” added the artisan who is famous for her ethnic style.

Cultured pearls come from farms where breeders can control the conditions. In general, the perfectly round and smooth pearls are the ideal. However, many shapes are also available in jewelry like the baroque pearl, which has an irregular, non-spherical shape.

Three of the most common saltwater pearls are Japanese akoya, Tahitian (mostly referred as the black pearls) and south sea pearls.

Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand are the main producers of saltwater cultured pearls, while the freshwater pearls are mostly produced in China.

Over the past year, more and more people — both young and old — have shown more confidence in wearing pearl jewelry.

“I see some young people wearing pearl jewelry nowadays. You wouldn’t have seen this a year ago. But these days, it grows together with the fashion,” Wiwi Aswiana, owner of Maisya Jewelry, told.
Wiwi, a jeweler who works with a variety of materials, including diamonds, believes that Indonesia has around 80 percent of the world’s stock of pearls.

“During my overseas trips to join international exhibitions, such as my trip to Bahrain last month, I’ve received comments that Japan has the best pearls in the world.

“But Indonesia has the most gorgeous south sea pearls and the fact that Japanese jewelers buy raw pearls here says as much, right?” said Wiwi, who has bought pearls from Lombok for eight years.

Most of today’s pearls in the jewelry industry were cultured, with saltwater pearls considered much more valuable than their freshwater counterparts, she said.

“It’s because each pearl oyster will only have one pearl when harvested, while the freshwater mussel can produce up to 35 pearls each,” she added.

To fetch a high price for a whole pearl necklace, Wiwi said that each pearl should be perfect, big and round, spotless and have a natural glow. Saltwater cultured pearls are mostly white, gold, pink and green, and range in size from 12 to 16 millimeters in diameter.

“Every time I go to my farmer colleague in Lombok, I will look for a bead with the exact size and color. I can get four beads a year, but it’s not always like that.

“So, you can imagine how many billions of rupiah I’ve spent to create this item. Therefore, I think it’s worth the price,” she added.

On high-end pearl necklaces, the Rosario Mutiara pearl company recently gathered 25 of the finest grade pearls — or AAA in industry terms — ranging in size between 16 and 16.9 millimeters in diameter, for a whole-set necklace priced at around Rp 2 billion (US$208,000).

“Our company has been established for about 20 years now. We’ve been keeping these perfect pearl beads for that long, too,” says owner Eric Tenggara, adding that the pearls came from his company’s three pearl farms in Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara.

“The pearls earned the AAA grade because of their perfect roundness and rare spots,” Eric said of the pearls’ perfect golden color.

Some visitors during the exhibition have shown an interest in the pricey pearl necklace.

“We’re not strict about the Rp 2 billion price,” Eric said. “Any potential buyer can get this precious item if he or she puts in a suitable bid.”

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