United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 188-191 online

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They place the round ones together, they pair those in form of a pear, they
remove the irregular ones, which are called "barocche," or out of the
round, and gather the smallest ones in a mass. The round ones are pierced
and strung with a silken thread, often with much art, in order to obtain a
better effect. The quality of color and of size greatly influence the price.
A perfect pearl should be without irregularities of surface, whatever its form.
It should be of a silvery white color, slightly blue or yellowish.

There is no basis for establishing the prices which jewelers ask for pearls,
but the following is given by an important Italian jeweler dealing exten-
sively in pearls as their mercantile value at the place of origin:

A pearl weighing i grain is worth half its weight (the Italian lira, 19.3
cents, being taken as the unit), say 50 centimes (this may vary up to 75
centimes) ; a pearl weighing 2 grains, one and a half times its weight, say
3 lire; 3 grains, 6 lire; 4 grains, 8 lire; 5 grains, 10 lire; 6 grains (twice
and a half its weight), 15 lire; 7 grains, 18 lire. The value increases greatly

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according to size, and above these weights fancy prices are asked for fine

The great market of supply for Italy, as well as for most European
countries, is London. This market is supplied principally from the take of
the India company, which has its headquarters at Bombay and its represent-
atives at the place of fishery.

The company sells through its London representative directly to large
houses in that city dealing solely in pearls, whose agents visit Italy, bring-
ing supplies for the Italian market. For everything that is small and com-
mercial the purchase by Italian merchants here is then and there, but
pearls and necklaces of great price are frequently left Avith them for sale on
commission. Italian merchants also make some purchases of pearl supplies
at Paris.

Budapest, Austria-Hungary, is also a considerable market for pearls.
These pearls are all derived from merchants in the interior of Persia, are fine
in shape and color, but are not noted for their size and value. They may be
said to vary from i to 6 grains in weight. The great sales of the Budapest
market are made at Vienna. There is not much trade with Italy from this
source, for, as has been said, the pearl supply of Italy is derived from Lon-
don and, in part, from Parisian merchants who have purchased originally on
the London market.

During the last ten years fine pearls — pearls of great price — have been
much sought for on foreign markets ; therefore, family i>earls, which have
come to sale in Italy have usually found their market in Paris or London.
The only historical necklace in Rome was presented by Cardinal Mazzarino
in the seventeenth century to one of his nieces, who married here. It is
now the property of a Roman princess.

Pearls are much sought and prized by all classes in Italy, and a very
important trade is carried on here. From time immemorial the p>easant
women of Tuscany have been accustomed to wear necklaces composed of
several strings of small pearls of irregular shape, pierced and strung on silk.
These pearls are known as ** inter mezzette. ' ' Their necklace most frequently
constitutes their sole property, and have often cost from 1,000 to 1,500 lire;
yet these are women who at seasons are engaged in agricultural pursuits in
the open fields. Owing to this custom, there is a large demand for this
class of pearls throughout Tuscany, and there always is a considerable supply
to be found at Florence.

It is most difficult, if not impossible, to give the extent of the jjearl sup-
ply of Italy. Imports of this article are placed in the same category with
diamonds, sapphires, and other precious stones. It is said that statistics of
the supply could only be had from the India company or its representatives
in London.

At the present time, the best pearls come from the fisheries of the India
company, which is explained by the fact that the company, authorized by
the Government, only allows the fishing of a pearl bank during one season

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in every ten years, because it was found that excessive fishing on a fruitful
bank only furnished pearls small or irregular in shape, and that it was there-
fore necessary to leave sufficient time for their further development.

Rome, February 2g, i8g6. Consul- General.


There is no pearl supply in this district. Most of the native jewelry is
made of silver and gold. Gems are found in Madagascar of commercial
value, but are preserved as curiosities rather than valuables. There does
not seem to have been, even in remotest times, any pearl fisheries either on
the coasts of Madagascar, the Comoro Islands, or the island of Reunion.
The very few pearls that are in the island came here in European jewelry or
were brought in for the purpose of repairing same.


Tamatave, February 2^, i8g6. Consul,


In obedience to Department circular dated December 21, 1895,^1 inclose
herewith the most reliable and authentic information obtainable regarding
the pearl supply in Mexico and the manner in which and whence said sup-
ply is obtained. It may be that a supplemental report will follow, as I have
requested the consul at La Paz to give such information as he could; this,
however, can not change the features of this report, as Mr. M. S. Cornejo
and his associates have entire control of said pearl output from Mexican

I have the honor to inclose a translated copy of a letter received from Mr.
Cornejo concerning a concession for carrying on the pearl-shell fisheries
from the coast of Lower California entire to the Guatemala boundary. I
also send herewith six small pearls of various colors as samples of what can
be obtained.


Mexico, February 14, i8g6. Consul- General,


Mexico, February' ji^ j8g6.
Hon. T. T. Crittenden,

Consul- General of the United States^ Mexico.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you about the contents of the circular of the State De-
partment, Washington, bearing date of December 21, 1 895, regarding the supply of small
pearls in Mexico. * * * I represent, or hold, a concession from the Government of

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Mexico for carrying od the fishery of pearl shells from the coast of Lower California and the
whole Mexican Pacific coast to the Guatemala boundary. This enterprise is in the hands of
three Mexican associates. The work is carried on continuously throughout the whole of the
year. More than five hundred men are employed in the diving operations. A special fleet
is employed in such a fishery. More than 400 tons of shells are obtained each year. These
are sold in the United States and Europe. The good-class shells are sent to New Ycx-k,
London,*and Paris, which latter place offers the best and most constant market. Defective
and small shells are sent to various cities in Germany, where they have a magnificent con-
sumption in the jewelry industry. You may therefore, Mr. Consul, inform the State Depart-
ment of your Government that this company can and will execute all orders for small or large
pearl shells, with the assurance that they will receive on our part the most prompt attention
at the most moderate and reasonable prices, so as to enable us to establish a market for our
industry in the United States.

I take pleasure in forwarding through you, with this letter, as samples, six small shells, or
pearls, of various colors, advising you at the same time that in the lots that may be ordered
shells of similar colors and forms can be supplied, with the usual proportion of defective ones

I remain, Mr. Consul, yours respectfully, M. S. CORNEJO.


The pearl fisheries in this district (La Paz, Lower California) are decreas-
ing yearly for want of a S3rstematic method of gathering the pearl oyster.
The fact that the fishing is continued throughout the year, without a suffi-
cient intermission during the season for spawning, destroys the small oyster
to such an extent that the decrease is now very noticeable, and if proper
steps are not taken to regulate the fishing seasons, this industry will soon
become entirely extinct, as has already taken place in the vicinity of Panama
from the same cause.

The regular season for diving is considered best from April or May to
October or November, during which period the temperature of the water is
the warmest. The production of fine pearls has been estimated at from
J 100,000 to Ji 50,000 per year heretofore, but the last season, especially,
it is not considered to have produced over J 75,000. All, or the largest
part, of the shell and pearls are exported to Europe, and the best season for
purchasing the products by the pearl dealers is in October or toward the
last of the fishing season.

Small experiments are now being made to cultivate the pearl oyster, and
the success attained in the last two years certainly proves the feasibility
of the industry. Unfortunately, however, all of the coast comprising the
fishing grounds on the peninsula of Lower California is now monopolized
by concession ists, who have obtained these leases from the Government for
a long period, and as the holders, so it is asserted, do nothing to develop the
industry, it is to be regretted that people who might be willing to do so are

thus debarred.

La Paz, January 28 y i8g6. Vice- Consul,

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During the year 1895 ^ ^^^^ ^^ pearl fishermen, composed of a schooner
of about 100 tons, used as a receiving ship, six luggers of about 15 tons
each, manned with a crew of some fifteen men, including divers with ap-
paratus, and a steam launch for towing, were fishing off the west coast of
Sumatra, but after a three months' trial, with little or no success, the fleet
returned to Singapore.

The principal and no doubt the richest fishing grounds for pearl shell is
among the Moluccas group of islands, but up to the present lime no Euro-
peans have attempted fishing there, as the Netherlands Indian Government
have small gunboats patrolling among these islands to prevent vessels from
encroaching on these grounds. For a number of years the natives have
been fishing for pearls among the Moluccas, but, having no diving apparatus,
they seldom go deeper than 2 fathoms and consequently do not obtain the
finest specimens of shells or pearls.

Mr. Henry Rollinson, of the New York Life Insurance Company,
obtained concessions and permission to work the pearl-fishing grounds at
the island of Serim, of the Moluccas group, and attempted last year to float
a company for that purpose with a capital of $20,000, but was unable to
obtain the necessary capital.

From Macassar, the center of the pearl-fishing business, I have obtained
the following points : At Macassar there is a regular supply of pearls at all
times and they are taken there by Chinese and Arabs, who purchase them
from the natives of the neighboring islands, principally the island of Aroe.
From Macassar the pearls are sent first to Singapore and then to the London,
Paris, and Amsterdam markets.

It is impossible to give the exact value of the pearls exported yearly from
Macassar, but it is estimated at about ||i 2,000. Some years, when there is
a large supply of mother-of-pearl shells and large size and "orient " pearls,
this amount will be increased.

Most of the pearls which are brought to Macassar are '* baroques.'* The
highest valued, such as button, egg, or pear-shaped, are rather scarce, espe-
cially those of a fair size.

During 1895 one pearl of 24 carats came to the market, but while this
pearl was nearly round, it was not perfect. It was sold for about || 1,000.
Another pearl of 21 carats, pear-shaped, but not perfect, sold for $Soo.

Large pearls, as above, are very scarce, consequently they bring high
prices, although not perfect. Fine, large pearls, without flaws, are hardly
ever seen in the market, and their value would be estimated, at least, double
that which was obtained for the pearls already mentioned.

The kind generally received at Macassar are pearls of from 2 to 10 carats
and sell as follows: Eight to 10 carats, $50 to II500; 6 to 8 carats, $40 to
$3^0; s *^ 5 carats, $10 to $150; i to 2 carats, |i to 1115— depending on

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form, "orient,'* and perfection of the pearl. Those weighing less than i
carat are sold at from 25 cents to I3.

Large arrivals of pearls from Australia appear to keep the prices for the
common kind low in the European market, but large pearls without flaws, or
slight ones, are much sought after, and high prices are offered at Macassar.

The United States would, no doubt, get a fair share of this business if
American firms would follow the example of the European merchants and
authorize some good firm, thoroughly acquainted with the business, and sta-
tioned at Macassar, to buy this article for their account.


Batavia, March jOy i8g6, ConsuL

mr. rollinson to consul rairden.

New York. Life Insurance Company,

Southern Division, Asiatic Department,

Batavia ^ Java, February 18 y i8g6.
B. S. Rairden, Esq.,

United States Consul.
Dear Sir: Referring to the inquiry made by the Department of State regarding pearl
fisheries in the Indian seas, I take much pleasure in giving you some particulars referring to
territories under the Dutch Government, 1. e., the surrounding seas of Sumatra, Java, Borneo,
and the Moluccas. First, I must state that only natives without diving apparatus, conse-
quently not diving deeper than 2 fathoms of water, have up to now attended to this industry,
disposing of their spoil, such as pearls, mother-of pearl, tripang, and other sea products, to
traveling Chinese and Arab merchants or those living in the vicinity of Macassar, perhaps
dealing direct with one or two established European firms there.

During last year attempts were made by Australian pearl fishers coming from the Thurs-
day Island to encroach on Dutch territories, and it is only since then that the Dutch Gov-
ernment has been paying more attention to this industry, the more so as it has been proved by
experts, who have explored more or less these territorial waters, that immense quantities of
these much-desired sea products are to be found.

The pearls are of the finest quality, pure white and of regular shape; the mother- of-{>earl
shells are of immense size, on the average 225 to a ton. Some enterprising people have
asked for and obtained from the Dutch Government concessions to start pearl fisheries, but
unfortunately, Dutch capital is principally invested in coffee, tobacco, and other products, so
it might be a splendid investment for American enterprise.

Yours very truly, H. ROLLINSON.


There is no pearl fishery or pearl industry in New Caledonia. An at-
tempt has lately been made to work a pearl-shell bed, discovered on the west
coast of the island. This ground, which extends to 30 miles of reef, has
lately been taken up by two French citizens, Messrs. Vidal and Thomas.
Should American jewelers desire to enter into communication with these
gentlemen, I shall be most happy to place my services at their disposal.


Noumea, April 10 , i8p6. Vice- Cotnmercial Agent.

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Fishermen say that shells containing pearls have been found on the west-
ern coast of Nicaragua, but that pearls have never been found in the vicinity
of San Juan del Norte.

There are oyster beds near Bluefields, and the consular agent has been
instructed to make inquiries regarding pearls and pearl shells. But little
information can be obtained here regarding the pearl fisheries of Colombia
or the alleged finding of pearls on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua.


San Juan del Norte, January 2jj i8g6. Consul,

Bluefields, — Consular Agent Seat reports: Pearls are found occasionally
at Pearl Lagoon. I have not heard of any being found here. No one is
engaged in pearl fishery on the coast. The oyster beds of Pearl lagoon
and Bluefields are extensive. Oysters are sold at Bluefields by Indians, but
no one makes a business of gathering them for sale.


There are no pearl fisheries near Manila, although an occasional pearl is
found in the oysters gathered by the natives for the Manila market. The
great pearl fisheries are situated far to the south, in the neighborhood of
Ceylon. I might say a few pearls are found in the Sooloo Sea and around
the islands of the southern part of this group (the Philippines). The mar-
ket for pearls is either Colombo, Penang, or Singapore; only a few find their
way to Manila, and then only for sale by the jewelry stores, mounted and
set for the trade. I give the names of two good firms, who might enter into
negotiations with a responsible house in the United States — Uhlman Bros,
and Levy Hermanos, Manila and Paris, France.

I saw a pearl to-day that was found in a common oyster. I should say
it weighed 5 carats and was perfect in shape and of good color, but such a
find is rare in the vicinity of Manila.


Manila, February 21, i8g6. Consul.


Lisbon is not, in any degree, a mart for the sale of small pearls. There
are no large manufacturing jewelers here, and Paris and London are the
sources of the limited supply of all sorts of gems required by the retail

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Some years ago a concession was granted by the Portuguese Goverament
for a company of pearl divers to operate off the coast of Mozambique, but
no steps ai>pear to have been taken since to carry out the project.


Lisbon, January 21 , i8g6. Vice- Consul,


Pearls are found in Finland lakes in small quantity and of such inferior
quality that no systematic fishing is carried on. Pearls found in these lakes
are of small size, lacking the bright, white, glossy appearance. They are
of dull, whitish appearance, with bluish tint, and are about the same as the
Scotch pearls; in fact, they are mainly sold as Scotch pearls. The Russian
jewelers purchase their pearls from houses in London and Paris, who send
their agents to this country. A few years ago pearls came direct from
Persia to Russia, but since the pearl trust has been formed in London, the
market is entirely controlled from those quarters.


St. Petersburg, January 2^, i8g6. Consul- General,


Pearl fisheries are not developed to any considerable extent in Siamese
waters. Pearls are found, from time to time, but not in sufficient quantities
to create any trade in that line. If any are found, they are immediately
purchased by the local demand. The high-class natives of Siam, Burmah,
and India are great buyers of all kinds of precious stones and ornaments.
This tendency has even increased during the last few years, on account of
the prevailing belief among natives that the only safe way to invest money
is to purchase jewelry and similar articles of intrinsic or sterling value.
This is very much in evidence in Siam, and not much less so in Burmah and
India. This may account to some extent, if not to a considerable degree,
for the scarcity of pearls. I was recently informed by a reliable agent of a
leading European firm that it was astonishing what vast sums of money had
been and were being invested by Asiatic princes in diamonds, rubies,
sapphires, emeralds, and pearls, and that some day undoubtedly the markets
of the world would be flooded with these hoarded supplies. He also informed
me that he knew of one Indian rajah who purchased all pearls that were
brought to him, and that the native fishermen would deliver to him rather
than to any foreigner. The majority of these pearls were either hoarded or
distributed among the women of his court, whose desire for jewelry is never
satisfied, while a fair portion was used as presents to his fellow princes in
India and other countries.

A European or American can not fully appreciate the vast amount of
valuable stones and like ornaments used by the royal and princely families

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of these oriental nations, unless he beholds them arrayed in all their glory
on state occasions. Then it seems almost a wonder that any are left for the
American and European markets.

Bangkok, February //, i8g6. Consul- General,


I have the honor to report that, in reply to my requests for information
relative to pearls and pearl fisheries, I have received, on the part of the Gov-
ernment here, a communication from the honorable Colonial Secretary, of
which I submit a copy, and, on the part of the mercantile community, a
letter from Messrs. McAlister & Co., one from Mr. D. Brandt, of Messrs. D.
Brandt & Co., and one from Messrs. Griinberg Bros., copies of which I also


Singapore, J/arM ^, 7<?pd. * Consul- General,

the colonial skcretary to consul-general pratt.

Colonial Secretary's Office,

Singapore, February 24, i8g6.
E. Spencer Pratt, Esq.,

Consul- General of the United States , Singapore.
Sir: In reply to your letter of the loth instant, I am directed to inform you that there is
no regular fishery for pearls in the territorial waters of this colony or in the neighborhood

The pearls in the market here are believed to be obtained from the fisheries off Australia
and Thursday Island, from off the Mergui archipelago, the Gulf of Manaar, and Tamblagam
Bay, in Indian waters, and from the Persian Gulf.

An American agent in the Persian Gulf or at Thursday Island would most likely be able
to obtain all the pearls that may be required if he were prepared to pay the market price for

I am informed that in Singapore, Messrs. McAlister & Co. and Griinberg Bros, have
pearls for sale.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Colonial Secretary,


Singapore, March j, iSg6.
E. Spencer Pratt, Esq.,

United States Consul- General^ Singapore.
Dear Sir: We are in receipt of your favor of the 28th ultimo, regarding small pearls for
manufacturing jewelers.

As interested largely in pearling and acting as agents for a large number of the pearl
fisheries and having $100,000 to 1150,000 of pearls going through our hands annually, we
have to inform you that the greater part of these are forwarded to London for sale, while of
No. 191 4.

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those sold here, the small or seed pearls, such as are used by manufacturing jewelers, are
never picked out or sold separately. As a rule, we never split up a consignment by selling
any one lot thereir separately.

If American dealers would give us an idea of the exact class of pearls inquired for, with
probable requirements, we have no doubt we could procure a considerable quantity in this

We receive pearls here from lx)wer Burmah, Western Australia, Sooloo, and, in small
quantities, from Queensland.

We are, dear sir, yours, faithfully, McALISTER & C(^.


SlNGAl'oRE, February jj, iSgd.
Dear Mr. Pratt: In reply to your note of the 2ist instant, there is very little import
and trade here in small pearls, which I take to be pearls of from one-fourth of i grain to 4
grains weight. These small j>earls arrive here from the fisheries in Mergui, Sooloo, and
Western Australia in very small (|uantiiies, and are chiefly exported to China, the better ones
for jewelry and the inferior ones for medicinal purposes. In fact, small pearls are often im-
ported here for sale from Madras, Colombo, and Bombay, which are the places which could
supply you the desired information.

The trade hence to Europe is mostly in the larger sizes, ".baro<iues" and r^^lar shapes.
Yours, faithfully,



Singapore, March 2, j8<^6.
E. Spencer Pratt, Esq.,

Consul Central of the United States.
Dear Sir: We have much pleasure in giving you what information we can with regard

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 83 of 102)