Sunday, June 22, 2008

DMCC Launches Pearl Jewelry Design Course


(June 22, '08, 10:52 IDEX Online Staff Reporter)

The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) has created a two-year pearl jewelry design program – Pearl Essence – the Dubai International Pearl Jewellery Design Program. The course incorporates different categories of pearls, including Tahitian, South Sea Akoya and Freshwater.

The organizers note that Pearl Essence is a two-tier program incorporating both professional designers and jewelry design students, the first of which will constitute a custom-designed collection of pearl jewelry pieces, created by ten invited luxury brands, and the second, to incorporate a competition for final-year students from schools offering a minimum two-year full-time jewelry design course, spanning a broad geographical market.

For the professional designer tier, DMCC is currently in discussions with leading luxury jewellery brands including members of the Dubai Pearl Exchange to create one unique piece each for the collection. The entries will tour international jewellery trade exhibitions before being auctioned by Christie’s with the proceeds being donated to charity.

DMCC is also working with 44 jewellery design schools in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Lebanon, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey to solicit entries. The student entries will be judged by an international jury, chaired by DMCC and comprising trade journalists and professional jewellery designers, and evaluated for commercial design, wearability, theme-based creativity and the use of pearls as the main design feature.

A shortlist of 10 student designs will be fabricated into finished jewelry by DMCC-nominated manufacturers and pearl sponsors. The fledgling designers stand to win several awards including a 30-day internship with an international jewelry design house, a week's visit to the pearling operations of Paspaley Pearling Co in Western Australia, a seven-day course at Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA’s) Carlsbad campus and online pearl courses from GIA.

Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the DMCC, said, “This international pearl jewellery design programme will both highlight Dubai as a centre for the global pearl trade and increase the visibility of pearls in the fashion industry. Pearl Essence will invite participation from the global marketplace and provide a neutral and innovative programme for the international pearl community.”

Phu Quoc pearls may not be what they seem


At the Dinh Cau night market, where tourists often meander after a day at the beach, pearls are sold at same booths as souvenirs and toys for only a few hundred-thousand dong.

Dozens of stalls at the Ham Ninh Market sell pearl earrings for VND10,000 (US$0.6) apiece alongside snacks and drinks.

One pearl necklace costs VND300,000 ($18) while another that looks nearly identical costs VND3 million ($180).

Market vendor Hong Dao said the latter was made of real Phu Quoc pearls, worth much more than the Chinese pearls used to make the cheaper necklace.

Khong Thi Thanh Truc, a partner in a Japanese-Vietnamese pearl company, said Phu Quoc pearls are 10 times more expensive than Chinese pearls.

Vo Van Doi, a pearl trader in An Thoi Town, said he had just sold a 12-millimeter pearl to a foreigner for VND15 million ($903).

Doi said it was not easy to find genuine Phu Quoc pearls because fakes have flooded the market.

He explained that fake pearls were easy to make but could be discovered by rubbing two pearls together.

Fake pearls would loose their enamel this way, he said.

Doi also said that putting a flame to pearls was an easy way to tell a fake as imitation pearls would shrink or be deformed by high heat.

But few shop owners would allow their pearls to be tested that way, he said.

A veteran trader on the island, Doi said the local pearl market is more complicated than ever as shops don’t provide credible evidence of the origins of their pearls.

And the fake pearls are everywhere, he said.

Even fishmongers and motorbike drivers often approach Doi with cheap fake pearls, asking him to sell them to tourists for a commission.

As an established trader, Doi said he always refuses such offers.

And it is not only fake pearls or Chinese imports that are hindering the island’s reputation, but even some Phu Quoc pearl companies now sell lower-quality freshwater pearls as opposed to those taken from seawater oysters.

Phu Quoc is located some 115 km off the coast of Rach Gia, capital of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang.