A pearl of not-so-great price
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but for many years of my life, there was a secret, longing little part of me that wanted to be an impeccably groomed WASP. I wanted to look like Breck Girl, with a glossy page-boy hairdo that reflected the visage of my adoring spouse, who would take my arm and walk me into dinner. Which we would, of course, have dressed for.
I would have worn pearls - the add-a-pearl necklace that my doting Mummy and Daddy had started me off with at birth.
Well, that secret little longing didn't exactly pan out. (A companion secret longing, in which I was part of a wildly brainy family of Jewish intellectuals in Marimekko shirts, arguing over James Joyce and Trotsky, didn't pan out either, but I got a lot closer.)
And I never got to wear any pearls, other than some cheap-o fresh-water pearls the size and shape of mice teeth.
Nonetheless, I have not 100% given up of the image of myself in a tasteful, elegant, well-fitting (takes 10 pounds off) black dress and pearls.
So I read a recent article in The Economist on the bubble-burst in the pearl market with interest.
Yes, along with so many other industries - especially those that are non-essential - the pearl biz is having it rough. The general economy. Currency fluctuations. And, most of all, too many damned pearls out there.
Thanks to pearl farming,
Andy Muller, a dealer based in Japan, estimates that the worldwide production of cultured “South-Sea” pearls (from South-East Asia, Australia and the Pacific) increased from 2.4 tonnes in 1998 to 12.5 tonnes last year.
Way too many pearls out there chasing way too few add-a-pearl strands. (Most pearls, by the way, are cultured pearls, which, I guess, means that the pearl-diving trade has been buggy-whipped.)
Having dropped their prices to below cost, many pearl farms have gone out of business. Some are "climbing up the value chain, making jewellery [sic, by the way, or is that some weird Brit spelling?] from their own pearls." Add-a-pearl? Atta-boy!
Australia pearl farmers are holding there own - mostly because they have a quota system in place.
“Good quality strands made from Australian South-Sea pearls still command prices of A$100,000 ($92,000) or more—the same as ten years ago,” says Andrew Hewitt of Arafura Pearls, an Australian producer.
Which, actually, doesn't sound all that holding-their-own-ish to me, unless Hewitt means inflation-adjusted. (Surely, there's been some inflation Down Under over the last decade...)
Meanwhile, I'm not in the market for a $100K pearl necklace -even if it is $100K Aussie.
I may just look into a pearl of not so great price, however. Maybe one of those faux Jackie Kennedy models, that retail for about $150, and are advertised in the back of Parade Magazine.
Unfortunately, once I put them on, I'd probably look a lot more like The Queen Mum or Barbara Bush than I would like Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
But I did say I had WASP urges, didn't I?
The Queen Mum.
Sure, she's dead, but you don't get much more haute-WASP than that, do you?