A Day in the Life of a Pearl Dealer

Thoughts on one of the most traditional industries through a fresh set of eyes

My Name is Dori and I am a Pearl Dealer

Hi everyone, my name is Dori, and I am the Managing Director of Amit Pearls. I wanted to write a post about the world of pearls from a perspective of someone who recently joined the industry. I originated from a completely different business and this is just a bit of what hooked me on Amit and pearls.

Before moving to Japan I was an entrepreneur. I founded a high-tech start-up company, and worked in executive positions in various technology companies. Needless to say the shift into pearls was huge. 

This company was established by my father and pearls were always a part of our family’s life. That said, joining as Amit’s managing director was a completely different ball game. 

Here are some characteristics I found to be very different which I’d like to share from my point of view.

Some perspectives of the pearl industry:

A Hyper Traditional Industry

First of all, even though I am no spring chicken, I am one of the younger pearl professionals pearl dealers work. Of course this makes me feel very good about my age. This goes to show that the pearl industry is still very traditional and offline. Traders view pearls the same way they used to decades and centuries ago. Sunlight, white cloth and a pair of eyes is all you need. The churn in the industry is quite low as a result. 

Solar Powered

As pearls are best viewed in natural light, when the sun goes down, pearl dealers go home. This is (hopefully) great news for my family, however as pearl exporters – we work around the clock. Waking up speaking to North America, going to bed speaking to the European customers. 

Pearl dealers rest when the sun does.

The Art of Buying

 

Amit sources pearls directly from the farms or their local proxies in Japan (can’t travel to Tahitian on a weekly basis now can we…). Purchasing can either be done in auctions, or private viewings (AKA private business). Auctions are straightforward and there is no negotiation other than a bidding process. I personally find this the less enjoyable channel to procure pearls, but it is a great way to learn what other players are willing to pay (and other market insights).

 

The more fun way is private viewing due to human connections between two pearl dealers. On this level, the pearl’s value isn’t determined necessarily by actual costs. But in rarity, demand, market condition and other parameters that are discussed during negotiations. It is a very interesting process, and gives both parties a great opportunity to complain and discuss the hardships of the industry (I’ve learnt that complaining is a crucial part of the business).

Kobe: a major hub of pearl trade.

A lot of black Tahitian loose pearls that will be sorted into pairs to be sold to wholesalers

My father and I enjoying a beer in Kobe, where he used to live before establishing Amit Trading in Tokyo

Time to Sell

As a trader, my position requires me to practice both worlds, buying and selling. I must reverse my role and find the strong points of Amit’s inventory and distribute to the right wholesalers worldwide. It is a matter of learning each customers preferences, willingness to pay and market situation. This means that at Amit we must understand ALL the main markets and prices, worldwide. One constant remains throughout the process of buying or selling, can you guess? That’s right – Complaining ;). That said, as exporters we travel quite often and get to visit great places such as New York, HK, Europe. It is a privilege to say the least.

Amit: Exporting pearls for 50 years

Wholesale Exhibitions

Throughout the year we participate in many wholesale exhibitions. These exhibitions are meant for high volume buyers that walk around isles in expo centers packed with pearls. Literally tons of pearls. We exhibit mainly in Hong Kong and Japan due to the fact that our wholesale customers exhibit in the other geographies and we would not compete with them. It is a very competitive surrounding, however the Japanese Pearl Pavilion has a unique vibe to it – while we compete, we are all still in the same boat and hope for good results over all. 

Before exhibitions, VIP wholesale customers have the opportunity to view and purchase a selection of the pearls we bring with us before the exhibition begins

Amit’s booth at one of the wholesale exhibitions where wholesale customers can stop by and select pearls for their clients

Pearl Sorting

This is the most interesting part of the business. While I used to manage R&D in the past, today I must manage inventory. Very different. Sorting is an emerging process of optimizing the inventory you have for different clients. As opposed to private sales, wholesalers buy in bulk: loose lots of undrilled pearls and hanks of strands that are meant to be necklaces. One must sort the pearls into pairs, necklaces, lost and other ways to make them appeal to different types of customers. A jeweler for instance, would much rather have ready made sets of pearls for rings and pendants than a wholesaler who is more concerned with cost efficiency. Amit’s experience in the market and knowledge help us sort in an optimal way for our clients.

Golden South Sea Pearl pairs sorted and ready to be mounted on earring settings

A Black Tahitian Pearl necklace, 15x17mm in size. Before drilling such rare pearls we place them on this layout and optimize the drilling points. This is risky! 

The Pleasure of Retail

Our sales to private customers is the most fun part of the business for me. First of all, a little background as to how it all started. Back in the day, my father’s friends would ask for pearl bargains rather than buying it full retail price. The word spread amongst the foreign community and from time to time people asked for pearls. Over the years this side of the business grew and it currently stands on 10-15% of our business! “Why do we do it?” People ask. Actually we get a lot back from this. We gain market insights valuable to our wholesale clientele. We are in the position of letting them know what’s popular and what is out of fashion from the consumers point of view. In a competitive world, every insight I can offer our customers over their competition is important. 

Most importantly, when selling to private people, you are there to see the happiness and joy pearls bring with them. Being able to work on designs together, explain the beauty of pearls and seeing the appreciation in people’s eyes is an amazing side of the business. It is for me, the most important side. During tough negotiations with customers, or suppliers – I always remember that at the end of the day these pearls will reach someone who will be ecstatic to receive them. Most probably they will be handed down to generations to come. And that in itself fuels me. 

Here is a short video we made that captures a little bit of the magic we are able to create using pearls, in our showroom. 

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