Toward the end of 2013, scientists, pearl farmers, and consumers alike started searching for a way to learn more about their pearls and where each one is sourced. If you saw our last blog on this subject, you already know that scientists have discovered how to extract trace amounts of DNA from pearls, in order to determine the species of mollusk that produced it.
On the same track, another way to trace your pearls has arisen – branding. It is becoming possible for pearl farmers to brand their pearls, either with a small silver logo on the nucleus, which can only be viewed under an x-ray, or with an RFID chip. RFID, or radio-frequency identification, is similar to the process in which you would have your pet microchipped so that he or she could be traced back to you if they were to get lost. Each pearl chipped in this way would have a unique identifier linking it to the farm from which it originated.
Many designer-brand loving consumers may adore this idea, while many others may be asking “why?” The main goal for farmers like Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls is to be able to reach out to consumers specifically interested in producing eco-friendly jewelry.
Aside from the prestige of being able to say, with proof, that your pearls were sourced from Perlas Del Mar De Cortez, Kamoka Pearls, or any other high-end marine pearl farm, the main upside to this is emerging process is the ability to learn about the region in which your pearl was formed, and the methods around its creation. It is more satisfying to many consumers to say “this is my strand of black Tahitian pearls. The pearls were produced by Kamoka Pearls, which uses methods of sustainability and environmental farming techniques not seen by many other pearl farms” than it is to simply say “These are my black Tahitian pearls”.
With this emerging technology, consumers have a deeper connection to their pearls because they are able to see photos of the exact farm where the pearls were produced, without ever having to travel all the way to Tahiti, the Gulf of California, or Japan. With this new step in tech, a pearl retailer will have the ability to educate the consumer even further on the purchase they are about to make. The retailer’s ability to extend this knowledge to the customer can also help to build trust and better relationships with clients. In addition to this, a gemologist or appraiser can give the customer a more accurate representation of value by providing this information. For example, if you were to buy a set of branded pearls, you would still have electronic information about their provenance via x-ray or microchip after they have been handed from generation to generation and their future owners had long forgotten where they came from.
The downsides, however, are numerous (at least for the time being). Both the logo method and the RFID chip are pricey, raising production costs by 2-3 dollars a pearl, something that many pearl farms will not be able to afford if the idea does not catch on with the majority of consumers. While many customers would be interested in hearing this information, there is no guarantee they will also be willing to pay the increased retail price for a branded pearl. Another thing to consider is that this process is nearly impossible for freshwater pearls, which make up the majority of pearls on the market today. Since most freshwater pearls are nucleated with mantle tissue only, rather than a shell bead as with saltwater pearls, there is hard nucleus to attach a brand or RFID chip to. Freshwater pearls already sell for a more commercially affordable rate to the general public than do saltwater pearls. If the majority of marine pearls were to become branded, this price gap would increase. Would this damage the market by causing more consumers to choose the less expensive freshwater pearls, or would sales of saltwater pearls increase as more pearl farm education is spread through branding?
Only time will tell.
source – http://www.jewellerynetasia.com/en-us/editorial/list/-C42-Editorial-Article/WEBONID/466/TYPE/Blog