104 Duval Street | Key West, FL

How To Buy A Conch Pearl

The rarest and most expensive Conch Pearls are those having the “flame” structure”, or rivers of light covering the surface. This chatoyant like characteristic can be quite spectacular and combined with certain shapes and colors such as pink, magenta, lavender and peach, will fetch the highest prices. An extremely rare snow (white) with flame structure will also be very valuable as a collector item.  Sometimes there is a well defined “eye” and on even rarer occasions you may be lucky enough to see a double eye. Only a small percentage of the few thousand pearls harvested annually are considered gem quality and those over 2 carats considered large, with 3 to 4 carats and up reaching collector status. Color, shape, size, color distribution, surface characteristics and other nuances such as the coveted flame structure, all affect value which like in all gems can range widely. Be prepared for prices in line with the extreme rarity of what you are looking at. Top queen conch pearls can fetch premium prices in the marketplace reaching over ten thousand dollars per carat but there are also more pearls available to the consumer that are reasonably priced compared to other gems of lesser rarity.

The International Gem Society recently published this article on how to buy a conch pearl and we are happy to share it:  https://www.gemsociety.org/article/conch-pearl-buying-guide/

No other pearl has such a wide range of colors, from the famous pink in all it’s varying hues to white to magenta, snow rose pink, orange, peach, cafe-au-lait and lavender in between. In 2009 the “Marcial de Gomar Conch Pearl Color Description Guide” was unveiled at the American Society of Appraisers conference in Orlando FL, as a means for helping dealers and consumers identify color attributes and qualities of these magnificent gems for when purchasing or searching for a replacement or researching market values. This color description guide is free to the world and we hope that it may contribute to the industry and consumer alike.

Remember also that any conch pearl is something that even very few jewelers have ever seen. Strive to avoid excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. All organic gems are subject to its effect even though it may not be apparent until after prolonged exposure over many years. Conch pearls, however, thus dulled can usually be re-polished to bring out their original luster and unlike many cultured pearls are not treated with dyes, waxes or irradiation. Consult us if your pearl loses its luster. If you are going to be in the sun for a long time, turn the ring over under your finger. It takes a long time for the luster to dull, perhaps a full season of exposure to direct sunlight before you would notice any change. Conventional indoor electric lights, unless very hot, should not affect your conch pearl. Our light displays in our store produce no change in the color or luster of the pearls. When it comes to care and cleaning do not use ammonia based cleaners. Use warm soapy water or a solution of water and bicarbonate of soda, and rinse well with cold water.  An ionic cleaner or even a very brief mild ultrasonic immersion with a non-toxic biodegradable solution, rinsed well, will also work well for Conch Pearls.

When purchasing conch (pronounced “konk”) pearls it is better to avoid the types of mountings where the pearl has been drilled or glued except for certain situations where it’s acceptable such as capping the end of an undesirable part of the pearl, leaving the best part exposed. Unlike its conventional bivalve cousins, in our opinion, drilling devalues the conch pearl but they can still be very valuable pearls nonetheless, even with drilling. Glues also have a way of crystallizing and breaking down with the passing of time resulting in possible loss of your gem pearl plus they attack the layering of the pearl.

“Know your jeweler” is an often heard caveat. We are continually visited by people who bought “conch pearls” while vacationing in the Caribbean, only to find out they were merely worthless shapes cut from the conch shell. It is a scam widely perpetrated, hard to avoid without training, as to the untutored eye, the shell is quite attractive. In many cases, only an expert with long experience, or a reputable lab, is able to tell the difference. Manuel Marcial de Gomar and Emeralds International, LLC, have worked diligently with the FBI and law enforcement on a number of scams and crimes resulting in the arrest and incarceration of the perpetrators, and continue to safeguard the integrity of the industry and the consumer through their ongoing efforts. We also adhere to and are proponents for the CITES treaty to help maintain healthy conch populations.

Recent advances in the culturing process of conch pearls may ultimately produce a market for cultured conch pearls which ultimately will impact the value of natural conch pearl similar to the effect that the cultured oyster pearl market has done to the natural pearl market.

We invite you to take advantage of our extensive selection of loose conch pearls built up over the decades of passionately dealing in these gems and also from our unique finished designs. Our experience and expertise with these remarkable treasures only works to serve your jewelry needs even better and we are here to serve you whether it’s finding a loose pearl or creating a unique custom design from scratch and matching it to your desired budget range. We sincerely hope that you may be one of the lucky few who have discovered this ocean treasure and get to enjoy its beauty for the rest of your life.

Buy safely, buy wisely, buy at Emeralds International, LLC, and enjoy one of the truly rare beautiful gems of creation!

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