Loved for their alluring sunny hues and large sizes, golden South Sea pearls are one of the most coveted cultured pearls today. However, when these pearls exhibit pink, green, turquoise and even light red overtones, they are elevated to something extraordinary. Hong Kong based Rio Pearl recently unveiled their exceptional Rainbow Gold South Sea pearl and it’s fair to say that the pearl world has changed forever.
What Are Rainbow Gold South Sea Pearls?
Rainbow Gold South Sea pearls are a rare variant of golden South Sea pearls that naturally occur in less than 1% of cultured South Sea pearl harvests. These pearls have gold body colors and exhibit strong multicolor overtones which can include hues of pink, green, turquoise and many other colors in between.
An easy parallel to these pearls are the peacock Tahitian pearls which are similarly loved for their mesmerizing dark body colors and incredibly rich and colorful overtones.
Commenting on what drew him and his team to the multihued rainbow pearls, Rio Pearl’s Director Jonathan Cheng notes, “From the moment we knew we could cultivate these type of pearls, we gradually pivoted to them, while ensuring we could cultivate them in large quantities. Since these pearls do occur naturally in our harvests, we wanted to find out how we could produce more of them by breeding oysters that produce higher color quality pearls.”
Innovation in South Sea Pearl Culturing
Rio Pearl’s auction of these exceptional pearls in August, met with great success. At this auction, entire lots, comprised exclusively of Rainbow Gold South Sea pearls, were offered to buyers from all over the world. And this spectacular pearl offering was a result of years of hard work and persistence.
Rio Pearl has been cultivating pearls at their South Sea pearl farm in Mergui, Myanmar, since 2010. Over the years, the farm has seen a steady improvement in pearl harvests.
However, almost six years ago, the pearl farm ran into some quality and production difficulties. Not ready to throw in the towel, Rio Pearl began looking for different solutions to those issues.
And as they say, when life gives you lemons… innovate. The company decided to pursue the production of these very rare, multihued golden South Sea pearls as a way to improving the overall quality and color of their golden South Sea pearl harvests.
Challenges Along the Way
The process of culturing these pearls with greater confidence and in larger quantities was neither easy nor straightforward.
“The first step in cultivation is always making sure you have a sufficient harvest that can cover the costs of maintaining the farm. The economies of scale is the second part – creating more oysters while ensuring they produce high quality pearls,” comments Cheng, about the many decisions that had to be made at the beginning of this project.
For Rio Pearl, an important aspect of this project was making certain that only high quality oysters with the correct genetic makeup were cultivated. “After we were sure that we could cultivate a certain number of shells within the space available, we started focusing on improving each and every associated process within the pearl cultivation framework,” remembers Cheng. As a result, Rio Pearl undertook considerable investment in research and testing to make sure the pearls produced were of the right color and quality.
But it took a wait of four years, from breeding oysters to harvest, before the results of the research and testing could be properly assessed. By 2020, Rio Pearl started seeing positive and concrete results, which confirmed that they were moving in the right direction.
Today, Rio Pearl is able to produce these distinctive golden South Sea pearls in sizeable quantities. And they are the first pearl company in the world to do so.
Commenting on whether the rainbow hued South Sea pearl variant is exclusive to pearls produced in Myanmar, Sheena Fu, Marketing Director at Rio Pearl observes, “I cannot say for sure if this type of pearl can be produced in other countries. But there are some characteristics that are exclusive to the gold South Sea pearls of Myanmar, making them very beautiful and perfect for the rainbow gold pearls. For instance, Myanmar golds are more lustrous, and they have very clean surfaces.”
Since this South Sea pearl variant has been introduced into the market by Rio Pearl, the company has established its own pearl grading assessment for them. Only top quality pearls are included in this category.
“The first requirement for the pearls to be assessed as Rainbow Gold is surface quality. Only pearls that are drill clean to very clean strand material are hand selected. Within these, pearls with the darkest gold body color and having strong, vivid, colorful hues are assessed as ‘dark rainbow,’ while the medium gold body color pearls with vivid, colorful hues fall under ‘rainbow’,” explains Fu. Even though some champagne or light gold pearls may also have colorful hues, these are not assessed as Rainbow Gold.
With the first auction of these pearls over, Rio Pearl can look back at its success with pride. Not only did all the Rainbow Gold lots get sold, the feedback from the buyers was very encouraging. For buyers who would occasionally find a couple of multihued golden South Sea pearls in a lot of 300-400 pearls, finding entire lots of these stunning pearls was not only unprecedented, it was a windfall.
“The pearls are very lustrous, very colorful, and resemble an equivalence to the peacock for gold South Sea,” explains Fu, about their immediate and resounding success at the auction, especially among buyers from mainland China.
Looking to the Future
At present, only one pearl farm is able to produce the Rainbow Gold pearls in large quantities but Rio Pearl plans to bring its remaining Myanmar South Sea pearl farms to the same level of production. Also, the company is also looking to further improve the overall quality of these pearls.
The company has scheduled its next auction of the Rainbow Gold pearls for early 2024.
Currently, the pearls are only available to buyers at Rio Pearl’s auctions. However, once these pearls are available in even larger quantities, the company also plans to set them in their own jewelry pieces.
Featured Image: Rainbow Gold South Sea Pearls, Rio Pearl, HK