Natural Pearls, Cultured Pearls & The FTCThe Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing their Jewelry Industry Marketing Guides …and one of the areas that they are seeking public input about is Cultured Pearls. Hold that thought for a minute, because I am wondering who remembers the story about Mr. Cartier and Natural Pearls. In 1917, Mr. Cartier needed, wanted and desperately sought to purchase the abandoned mansion on the busy corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street in NYC. Although the Cartier family was well known, the owner of the property, Mr. Morton Plant was not impressed. BTW, Mr. Plant was then a man in his 60’s with a wife in her 20’s. Mr. Plant was asking $1.5 million for the property and the Cartier family did not have it. What the Cartier family did have was a double strand of NATURAL PEARLS. As the story goes, Cartier dangled the pearls in front of the Plant couple. As husbands with wives a third of their age often do, Mr. Plant first and foremost wanted to keep his wife happy. So, Plant sold his property valued at $1.5 million for a strand of pearls. Although Plant didn’t get his desired cash, the transaction (given the value of the natural pearls) was considered a fair trade. Soon after Mrs. Plant died in 1965, the auction house of Parke Beret sold her 5th Avenue pearls. Can you guess the auction price? The pearls did not sell for $1.5 million; they did not even sell for a ½ million dollars. The pearls sold for $151,000. What happened? The broadly distribution of Cultured Pearls is what happened. The cultured pearl industry has essentially replaced the Natural pearl industry with production of cultured freshwater, South Sea, Tahitian, and of course….what is considered the classic cultured pearl (salt-water) developed/introduced my Mikimoto: Akoya Pearls. The FTC is seeking comments for possible revision of their Guides for the Jewelry Industry; FTC guides explain to businesses when/how they should make consumer disclosures to avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices. Regarding Pearls, they are reportedly looking at the word “cultured” and whether it should continue to be used to describe freshwater pearls (as well as traditional/salt-water cultured pearls)….. and whether or not consumers should be told about certain treatments such as dying pearls—different colors. August 27th is the deadline for sending comments to the FTC.
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