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"Mr. Peach and Southern Hospitality" or "How Lee Discovered Pearls."

Everything you ever wanted to know about pearls and then some!

I was tired and my feet hurt.
No. I was exhausted and my feet were experiencing something beyond excruciating. (But I did look good!)
New to the jewelry trade show, I had not learned what it meant to pace yourself and to wear comfortable shoes. So I was quite surprised that one of life's defining moments was right around the corner. Literally.
There, around the corner was a sea of iridescence. Pearls in shapes and sizes I had never encountered. Quantities that I could hardly take in. My reaction was visceral and I knew there and then that I had made an important discovery. However...

The spirit was willing, but my feet still hurt.
Then there was a miracle. An angel of mercy offered me a bottle of water and the rarest trade show commodity of all: a chair! Now this was someone I needed to know. Little did I know that I had made the acquaintance of one of the world's foremost pearl dealers, Mr. Peach.
Perched on that chair for hours (I'm not kidding) perusing tray after tray, strand after strand, I ended up buying 2, (two) pearls. (Not kidding about that either.)
The design potential was limitless. I was so completely overwhelmed about the creative possibilities that this one material represented that that was all I could manage to wrap my brain around. (BTW, the pearls looked like an F.O. For those who don't frequent The Varsity here in Atlanta, that stands for "Frosty Orange." Delish.)

Since then, let's just say I've bought a few more pearls from Mr. Peach. That singular act of buying me a bottle of water and offering me a chair will always be my fondest recollection of Southern hospitality.
I'm delighted to be able to introduce you and to share with you the opportunity to see and buy some of his amazing pearls. This is the perfect time to choose a pearl. Or to let that pearl choose you for a custom ring, or earrings or a bracelet.
Meanwhile, I recently had a captive audience while he was driving home from Miami. We talked about the upcoming event and here are some snippets of our conversation you might find interesting.

lwM: I HEART CHINA! My avocation is studying China: the arts, business, politics... I realize this is about a three hour conversation, but from where you sit, tell us about China now and how it has changed during your time there?
 
JP: China in 1973, was very overhung from Mao's cultural revolution that killed millions! Poverty was the norm and a persons wealth was determined by how many water buffalo or cows owned. Bicycles were the primary mode of personal transport. Clothing was blue, green and white. There were very few smiles, except for small children. Free enterprise had been destroyed!  The monthly income, for those who had jobs, was about $10 to $20 dollars per month. The Chinese people were afraid to talk to foreigners, being fearful of authorities.

In 2012 just 40 years later, China has been transformed into a "powerhouse" capitalistic economy. The lives of most Chinese families have improved dramatically! Most families live in nice housing with the amenities of middle-class. You can see more luxury cars than any place on earth and the iPhone is common-place. So, economically China has seen advancement unheard of in the history of the world!! Social and political issues are a different story! Concerning, these two issues, I believe the Chinese spirit and strong will, will shape them for the benefit of the people in the future.

lwM: China is well suited to pearl production. And so are you! So how did you choose pearls as your livelihood? Or did pearls choose you?
JP: Being part Cherokee and a descendant of French trappers, ancestry probably played a big part. I come from a family of fisherman, so fishing and shelling is just part of our family. But my initiative, that I chose myself.

lwM: And as a native of TN, it seems to me that has played no small part in your career. Confirm my suspicions or set me straight.
JP: TN is blessed with water! Pearls were harvested here by the Indians long before it was settled. TN is the biggest producer of natural American pearls and the pearl is even the TN state gemstone. The shelling industry is HUGE. TN has been the biggest producer of American mother of pearl shell used in the nucleating process for 30-40 years. So it could be said that almost all your pearls have had their roots in TN.

lwM: What is life like on the farm? The pearl farm, that is.
JP: Typically pearls farms are also farming fish, which is a very important product in China. Sometimes, a crop of pearls will be in the mollusk for 5-6 years so it's important to have other streams of revenue. And the price of fish has been consistently rising. This is good for the pearl farmer.

lwM: Between the farm and my atelier... tell us about the path the pearls take.
JP: From the time they are harvested, the farmer has a list of whom he sells his crop to. If he's cultivating cercle' pearls, he pretty much knows where they are going. If he's raising pearls under 3mm, there's a special buyer for that. Typically those go to India. High quality pearls go to the those dealers as well. SO they're distributed through different venues depending upon the pearl.

Pearl processors sort and match the pearls. Most end up in strands.
Some colors are bleached to bring out their best, some are dyed to peacock, eventually they get to the trade shows where they're purchased by jewelers and distributors and then they end up with the customer.

lwM: What trends do you see in pearl production?
JP: There's definite trending toward larger pearls. And we'll see a dramatic reduction of smaller pearls which require labor intensive nucleation. We'll also be seeing less and less keshis. The last few years has seen a 20-25% increase in wages as well. So we have seen a price hike, but prices could be lower or flat unless the economy rebounds.

lwM: What goodies can we expect to see when you visit us on the 17th?
JP: Lots of very interesting strands and loose pearls: freshwater pearls, South Seas, Tahitians, loose TN pearls and loose keshi.
Oh. And I'll bring my $1M abalone pearl.
lwM: Oh. You master of understatement. Glad you threw that one in.
I can hardly wait! We'll see you at 11 a.m. on the 17th!

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