Online Tahitian Pearl Auctions at Robert Wan

by Reema Farooqui
Robert Wan Pearl Auctions

Changing the Pearl Industry One Bid at a Time

When Covid 19 first emerged in early 2020, none of us really knew which way we were headed. With social distancing and limited in-person contact, the traditional way of working for many industries, including the global jewellery industry, went through a seismic change. Online, perforce became the new normal.

For the pearl sector, especially pearl auctions, the move to online was a big leap. The different physical attributes of pearls that give them value, such as lustre, overtones, orient, as well as surface quality are difficult to assess through photographs and videos. As a result, both pearl buyers and sellers traditionally have relied on in-person appraisals of these lustrous gems at auctions. But with travel restrictions and health and safety concerns, the pearl sector quickly adapted and for the first time ever, large players in the pearl world began holding online auctions.

Robert Wan Online Pearl Auctions

The Robert Wan Group, which has held in-person Tahitian pearl auctions in Hong Kong since 1998, developed a dedicated platform for online auctions, in response to the Covid crisis. This was especially because French Polynesia had closed its borders in response to the pandemic, which made selling Tahitian pearls in person very difficult.  

However, an online platform for auctions was something that had already been in the works at Robert Wan. “Online auctions were a project that Robert had in mind for a while. The idea was to offer access to as many Robert Wan pearls as possible and to offer a more modern mode of marketing in line with the digitalization of trade,” observed Patricia Bonhomme, a marketing expert and consultant who works on Robert Wan’s e-commerce projects.

The platform became operational in April 2020 and online auctions began to be organized by Tahiti Perles, a Robert Wan company. Since then, the company has held 17 online auctions, with plans to step up activity and hold one auction every month by the end of this year.

How do Robert Wan’s Tahiti Perles online auctions work?

Pearl wholesalers, retailers, traders, designers and jewellers can register their account on the Tahiti Perles website. Once verified and approved by the Tahiti Perles team, buyers are notified of upcoming auctions and can login and start placing their bids. In addition, a user guide is available on the website which explains the bidding process in detail to new buyers.

The auction listings can only be accessed by registered buyers and the lots are presented as clear photographs accompanied by a brief description of the shape, quality, size, colour and quantity of pearls. In addition to loose pearls, there are lots with matching sets of pearls for earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

After the auction ends, buyer can pay for their  winning bids through direct bank transfer, credit card as well as PayPal. All payments are made in Euros. Since the pearls are physically located in French Polynesia, shipment happens soon after payment. However, given geographical distances and the required export formalities of the French Polynesian government, delivery can sometimes take up to 3 or 4 weeks.

Are online pearl auctions here to stay at Robert Wan?

With positive feedback coming from buyers, Tahiti Perles online auctions are now an established sales channel for the Robert Wan Group. This is because one the one hand, these online auctions have allowed the company to reach many new buyers. On the other hand, new buyers very often become return customers, due to the quality of Robert Wan’s Tahitian pearls, the ease of use of the online auction platform and because of the customer service that is provided, both pre- and post-auction.

Nevertheless, in-person sales are back once again at Robert Wan and are taking place in French Polynesia. Since 2020, only one in-person sale was held in Hong Kong.

Looking back at how much Tahiti Perles has been able to achieve over the past three years, Patricia noted “I am particularly proud of the work that was accomplished since 2020 on these online auctions. With the technical work supported by Guillaume Wan and a new approach to pearl sorting led by Guy Wan and the teams of sorters, we were able to set up a new mode of operation.”

What’s next for Tahiti Pearls and the Online Pearl Auctions?

Tahiti Perles is now looking forward to starting the next chapter of their online sale journey with plans to set up a pearl platform for retail customers and for organizing the pearl auctions as a continuous sale.

You can learn more these online auctions at or by following them on Instagram @tahitiperles_rw

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