Andy Müller was a featured speaker at the 2009 European Gemmological Symposium earlier this month and shared a brief yet thorough analysis of the global saltwater pearl industry, which examined the past, present and the future.
For those pearlers of you who’ve lived under a rock for the past 40 years or have been so far removed from the society on some remote atoll, Swiss-born Andy Müller began his pearl career with the now disintegrated Golay Buchel in 1968. His career timeline is featured on his company homepage, Hinata Trading, and shows an exceptional career in pearls. He is also the author of “Cultured Pearls … The First Hundred Years.”
Mr. Müller has been generous enough to post a copy of his EGS presentation for the benefit of all interested parties. A simple download is available here.
Müller’s analysis explains well the shrinking value by over production phenomenon we’ve all seen plague the industry. He notes the saltwater cultured pearl industry was worth $800 million in 1993, shrinking more than 50% to an estimated value of $370 million this year.
Nothing in this report is sugar-coated as Müller confronts the realities facing all who trade in pearls. Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea production are analysed by timeline, and values not often publicly disclosed are given to each segment. South Sea pearl production, for example has increased from 650kan in 1998 with a total value of $220 million, to 3,350kan in 2009 with a decrease in value to $172 million, or 4,870 yen per momme.
Whilst the 4,870 yen does account for the bodgy production in Indonesia and the Philippines, it certainly does raise another question for Arafura investors who are waiting for an 18,000 yen per momme windfall.