Some of the leading companies in the pearl trade are banking on design excellence, brand-building and their single-minded concentration on quality to boost sales and expand their market share in today’s economically demanding and dynamic environment.

Gellner

One of these industry players is Gellner, a pearl jewellery manufacturer founded in 1967 by Tove and Heinz Gellner. The company is now led by Jörg Gellner, Eveline Müller and Birgit Gellner-Pavlow.

“Gellner stands for ‘Made in Germany,’ the fascination with selected fine pearls and the emotions associated with beautiful jewellery,” Jörg said. “We use only fine materials like 18-karat gold, and we have a strong relationship with pearl farmers such as Robert Wan, Justin Hunter, Jacques Branellec of Jewelmer, Paspaley and Autore.”

In 2012, Gellner has become the exclusive worldwide source of J. Hunter Pearls Fiji, he said. The company distributes J. Hunter’s complete harvests and promotes the Fiji cultured pearl alongside the pearl farmer.

Gellner also produces pearl jewellery, which Jörg described as “modern but still timeless.”

“We started quite a lot of innovations in our industry since we were the first in the market to introduce tension rings with a South Sea pearl in the centre; pearl necklaces with cut diamonds; pearls on gold wires; and pearls with diamond inlays to name a few,” he said. “Our success is based on our jewellery, which are very comfortable to wear. Our pieces look great and sexy, and our customers love the designs. We also provide all the tools to help our customers market the Gellner brand.”

Gellner is focused on gradual but steady growth, he continued.

“We do not aim to grow fast, and we can’t, [since we do not want to compromise on quality]. We concentrate on our main markets, which are Europe and the US. If we find a good partner for China, however, we would be open to setting foot in this market gradually,” said Jörg.

Global brand

Gellner’s designs are unmistakably German, but with a global appeal. It does not adjust its designs to cater to a specific market, the company executive said.

“We are a global brand and it needs to be recognised as such. We are sold worldwide, including Japan, Australia, French Polynesia, the US (from California to New York), Russia, Azerbaijan, Germany and many more,” said the pearl specialist.

Asked to identify the hurdles facing the pearl jewellery industry today, Jörg said supply remains a challenge for all pearl-related companies. “There is no strategy in production, and we are very often facing volatile prices and over-production, which are confusing consumers. If prices fall just like in the past, customers would turn away from pearls. This is why we are putting a lot of effort into design and finished jewellery rather than the classical pearl strand,” he said.

A long-term brand-building programme is one of the cornerstones of Gellner’s marketing strategy.

“Gellner is growing into a brand that is gaining recognition all over the world, and yet we do not aim to become a brand like Tiffany or Cartier. Our customers and followers already treat us as an ‘insider brand’ in our niche market. Through events and training programmes with our partners, together with their customers, we are trying to keep in touch with end-consumers in order to [identify their requirements],” Jörg said.

Alain Boite S.A.S.

Industry veteran Alain Boite, who heads the company of the same name, said demand for large-sized, premium-quality pearls is expected to enjoy steady growth in Greater China as consumers gain a greater appreciation of the beauty, rarity and value of these gems.

“China is a new market for pearls but it is a market that is picking up very well,” said Boite. “Right now, China is using more commercial-grade goods but I believe that this will change within the next few years as the market matures. I have China-based customers who favour nice goods, and at the Hong Kong show in February, we sold some fine pearls to Chinese clients.”

Based in France, Alain Boite S.A.S. has been offering quality pearls since 1984. The company specialises in exceptional South Sea and Tahitian pearls, and counts the US, Canada, Europe and Asia among its
major markets.

“I love pearls,” said Boite, who has been in the pearl business for more than 30 years. “Nothing delights me more than finding big-sized, lustrous pearls.”

At BaselWorld in March, the pearl dealer proudly presented some of his top “finds” including a string of perfectly matched Tahitian pearls in the most unique colours, a pair of large-sized, flawless golden South Sea pearls, and an extraordinary baroque pearl.

“It is an exciting business since every day is different. You will never guess what you would find,” Boite said. Pointing to his golden South Sea pearls, the pearl dealer said he acquired the gems separately. “I found one six months ago while I found the other a month ago. These were separate finds from different sources,” he said.

Australia Pearls

Jean-Francois Lassauvageux of Australia Pearls is another individual who specialises in rare pearls. At BaselWorld, his company presented several showstoppers including pairs of flawless South Sea pearls in large sizes, a 19.95mm Tahitian gem, and suites of stunning pearls.

“We have made it our business to supply only extraordinary pearls to the market,” said Lassauvageux, adding that Australia Pearls’ one-of-a-kind gems were among its top-selling goods at BaselWorld.

Established in 1996, Australia Pearls sees the potential for growth in China’s fast-growing luxury goods market. The market for pearls, however, is still at its earlier stages, said Lassauvageux.

“Consumer education is extremely important to raise awareness about gem-quality pearls. I also think more work needs to be done on the retail side,” he said.