One of the most enjoyable things about writing this blog are the emails I’ve been receiving. Some are good (I love your blog), some are nasty (how dare you, you son of a bitch), some are just down-right interesting (guess what my jeweler said?).
About a week ago I received this email from a gal named Paula in Atlanta, a follower of this blog. She is, of course, a pearl lover.
I have a question and I trust your word completely. I have a stand of 11-12 mm peach freshwaters I had restrung and appraised. The appraiser said there is no such thing as a natural pastel freshwater pearl. She says they are ALL immediately bleached after arrival to the factory and that would remove all color on ANY pearl. Now, Fred Ward and everyone else in the world says there are such things as natural pastel freshwaters-peach, lavender etc. Is my appraiser clueless or right? I just paid her $120.00 for her to tell me this. She wasn't saying only my strand was enhanced, she was insistent that all freshwater pastel pearls are dyed. She said the rose overtoned whites are the most valuable and that may be true but the rest of what she was saying are at odds with everything I have been reading. She said if the pastel pearls weren't enhanced they would be worth "a million." Please help.”
My response was not one of real astonishment. Paula was dealing with an appraiser that doesn’t know squat about pearls. Well, maybe she knows something, but her knowledge certainly isn’t worth $120 a pop! No such thing as natural-color pastel freshwater pearls, eh? Could she be confusing freshies with akoya? A pastel strand of pearls worth a million? I better get over to China quick, buy some pearls and offer her a good deal. You know, just $100,000 or so! Gotta do it quick before somebody schools her on pearl basics!
Paula and I corresponded back and forth about this, me explicating the ins and outs of pearls and pearl colors and Paula becoming more and more dissatisfied with her appraiser.
It turns out this was the second strand Paula had taken to this appraiser. The first strand was an off-round to semi-baroque, 9-10 mm freshwater white with good luster. A decent piece - nothing to write home about - it probably cost someone about $150 in China. But the appraisal was for a mindboggling $8000 retail! Appraiser, what are you smokin’!? It turns out that Paula had argued against the appraisal, knowing it was laughably high, even the owner of the jewelry store hesitated. But the appraiser stood firm. This was the number her Drucker program was spittin’ out, so damn it, it must be right!
When Paula went back to get her appraisal for the 11-12 mm pastel strand, the valuation was a bit more in line - about $2100-retail for the strand. But the appraiser had described the piece as a low-luster strand, and had obviously input faulty intelligence into that super-appraiser program.
As you can see quite clearly in the photo, the luster of the pastel strand is pretty damn close to the luster of the white. Maybe a tad bit less, but that pastel is no string of chalk. Calling one high luster and the other low is a bit of a stretch.
What is clear by looking at the photos is that the pastel strand is unmistakably more costly than the white. It ain’t worth $8000, but the white isn’t worth $2000. Now I have never used Drucker’s appraising program, but either it sucks, the problem is with the user, or the appraiser was simply pulling numbers out of her ass.
Paula finally got this appraiser to talk to her on the phone and you can imagine she was not in the best mood. She got just a wee-bit defensive. She is an expert!
What this all indubitably comes down to is education. Ten years ago, Paula would not have questioned her appraiser. She has, after all, the credentials! But Paula is a 21st century consumer. She does her own, independent research – on the Internet. I think it is about time that any appraiser that wants to save face in front of a customer does the same thing.