Pearls are having a moment.
For evidence, look no further than the fall 2016 runways of Miu Miu, Gucci, Chanel and Dries von Noten, among others. They’ve also been seen on Kim Kardashian, Lupita N’yongo and Caitlyn Jenner. And for those statistical diehards, pearl sales peaked in 2015 seeing a 369 percent rise in the last decade, according to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index.
From a trend point of view, renewed interest in pearls is not surprising, as fashion continues towards a goth/Victorian look. However, from a financial standpoint, that’s a whole different story. Just as the demand for pearls is rising, so is their price—a whole other trend which industry experts predict will continue.
Leon Rbibo, president of The Pearl Source, an online retailer raking in $10 million annual sales just from pearl jewelry, identifies what is contributing to the rise in pearl prices. “The price of pearls is increasing due to two reasons. First, economic landscape and financial markets play a role in luxury goods in general, high quality pearls are included in that. That means overarching factors like political uncertainty, such as escalations in the South China Sea, and unstable economies like the fluctuating Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan Renminbi.”
Rbibo also points to Brexit as another example of political unrest, adding, “Brexit had a 1000% immediate effect on the pearl market. Because the currency markets were destabilized, pearl goods, along with other commodities, became more expensive literally overnight.”
The second reason for the pearl price increase is environmental changes, according to Rbibo. He points out that pearls are like crops, in that they are farmed and the ability to produce them depends on the health of the ocean and other such factors. Thus with widespread climate change, the ability to produce them has become more difficult over the last few years, resulting in pearls becoming more scarce and higher quality becoming harder to find.
While The Pearl Source specializes in only higher quality pearls, Rbibo believes that two markets will emerge to meet the demands of fashion’s current pearl trend.
“I think that at the end of the day—there’s a consumer for everything and a price point for everyone,” Rbibo says. “It’s the same as there being a market for cubic zirconia and diamonds. There’s a market for imitation and another one for people who appreciate the organic, precious stones.”