It is always exciting to hear news about the akoya pearl industry in Vietnam, the elongated country that straddles akoya and South Sea pearl producing latitudes. With such a prime location, one would assume the pearl industry there would flourish. But the Tonga Bay is almost as famous for the rarely-discovered Melo pearl as it is for its pearl-culture industry.
I ran across this story today, discussing Phu Quoc Island pearls and one large producer, Ho Phi Thuy. Phu Quoc is on the Western edge of Vietnam, in the Gulf of Thailand.
Ho Phi Thuy claims 1.5 million shells in the gulf, producing an annual harvest of 200kg. That may not be enough to make a large dent in the industry, but I found it interesting to note that nearly all of his pearls are exported to Japan. We might already be seeing his pearls in our run-of-the-mill Japanese akoya strands. I’ve heard Japan (and even Mikimoto) import akoya from Korea. It is no secret the Japanese have been buying akoya from China for years. And what has happened to the akoya produced in Australia. It stands to reason those have made their way to Japan too. It makes you wonder, what constitutes as a Japanese akoya strand these days?
According the same article, there are a lot of local sellers hawking pearls to locals and tourists alike. But none of them are the fine Vietnamese akoya. They are the crappy Chinese freshwater rejects ala Greenhills in the Philippines.
There are some who are selling Vietnamese akoya as Vietnamese akoya. Baggins of Los Angeles seems to be capitalizing on this new akoya genre. A few strands have even found their way to an online seller in Washington State.
I, for one, welcome the success of the Vietnamese. The akoya has fallen on some tough times recently with the diseases and price fluctuations in Japan, and the wrath of Mother Nature in China. It is about time a little luster happened upon the industry.