The Jade Market is one of my favourite places to visit in Hong Kong. This magical market consists of rows and rows of vendors selling jade, pearl and semi-precious stone jewelry and trinkets. Our local friends say it’s a preferred spot for jade bargains. Of particular interest to me of course: the market offers a seemingly endless variety of shell pearls. These are the same durable material as cultured pearls, but at a fraction of the price.
Here is a great explanation from beadshop.com: “The shell pearl is laboratory made from the shell of an oyster. The process of making a shell pearl involves several different stages. The raw material for the base of the pearl is the sea shell, which is coated and polished to the final shape of the pearl. In order to produce a good quality pearl, a key ingredient is what we call a ‘mother of pearl bead’. This element adds weight, value and durability to the pearl.”
During our recent HK trip I took a good friend and client to the Jade Market and we had lots of fun. She was inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker’s long strand of pearls in the recent Sex and the City Movie, so we set out to purchase those as well as a shorter chunkier strand. After a pleasant experience and a successful bargaining strategy, Phoebe was over the moon and wore the long strand of pearls the very next evening out. She looked beautiful.
I was after another short, chunky strand of shell pearls. The vendor barely spoke English, but with sign language, a calculator and lots of warmth, we understood each other perfectly. The vendor sat me down after I’d selected the size of pearl so that I’d be comfortable as she threaded them to the correct length. The process took about 20 minutes. My final price was about US$26. Not bad for pukka manufactured pearls when the faux costume jewelry kind costs US$38 at Anne Taylor.
Shell pearls are the way to go if you can’t afford the cultured kind. They’re weighty and the correct colour. Fake pearls are often flimsy, cheap-looking and an off shade of cream. I’m partial to white pearls, but there were also exquisite black, brown, purple, pink and apricot pearls to choose from. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could order direct from this sweet pearl vendor at the HK Jade market? But then again, there is something to be said for the enchanting one-on-one experience.