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Why are Natural Pearls so Expensive? Like “Wow” Expensive?

Human beings are clever.

Ask the person in charge of a production machine whether or not it can produce 12 widgets an hour in future instead of the current 10 and there’s a fair chance that a clever man or woman will be able to think of a way to “make it so”. 

Now in the case of molluscs, it’s a very different thing – and we’re speaking here of cultured Australian South Seas pearls

You can’t offer the mollusc pay incentives or make morale-boosting speeches to persuade it to work harder. Nor can you come up with a turbocharge booster to make it go faster. It’s a natural thing and it produces pearls via a natural process in its own time.

The reason I’m saying this is to emphasise that producing a pearl isn’t a fast process. It takes a lot of time – in fact, around 2-3 years depending upon the exact techniques used and to some extent, luck. As a very rough yardstick, consider that a pearl perhaps only grows by around 2mm per year.

So, you can see the issue.

During that time, the molluscs need a lot of attention and care. Particularly in the early stages, this is a very labour-intensive process and a lot of it is still essentially manual because there’s no other way of doing it.

In the modern world, if you have lengthy production times and a lot of manual effort involved, then costs will be high. It’s also not finished at that point.

Even once harvested, there are all the issues associated with sorting, grading, matching and the production of the item of jewellery concerned. It’s expensive.

An extra word here though about the use of “natural”. If you’re talking about genuine “wild” pearls, then everything goes up a league in terms of cost.

That’s because such items are stunningly rare. The vast majority of genuinely wild (i.e. unfarmed) molluscs don’t contain usable pearls. You get the picture – rarity adds expense!

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