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Tahiti looking to promote pearls in Canada

David Nataf (left), Caroline Gauthier, store manager for Birks’ Montreal flagship store, and Canadian Gem president Pierre Akkelian at a fundraising event in benefit of the Concours de Musique. Birks and Canadian Gem made a joint donation of a Tahitian pearl necklace toward a silent auction.
The Tahitian ministry overseeing the pearl industry is on an information-gathering mission and it’s looking to Canada for answers.

David Nataf, a consultant contracted by Maison de la Perle, a government-owned division, says the South Pacific island’s pearl industry has remained stagnant over the last year. Part of the problem stems from the fact Perles de Tahiti—the previous body tasked with developing the Tahitian pearl industry—was dismantled, diminishing the extent to which the gems are promoted worldwide.

Nataf is now working to help develop pearl exports between French Polynesia and Canada and he’s looking for your input.

“The price of pearls is very low and the entire pearl business is in crisis,” he said. “We’re trying to better understand how we can get out of this crisis and how to sell more pearls in Canada.”

Part of that entails getting a better understanding of the Canadian jewellery industry and how Tahitian pearls fit into it, specifically, preferences for size, shape, colour, and price.

“We want to know about what you think about Tahitian pearls, what the market share is for pearls, and how we can improve our production to sell more pearls in Canada,” he said, adding similar-type surveys are being conducted in other pearl markets. “We need to know how to give the consumer a better product.”

Buyers of Tahitian pearls make their purchases at trade shows in places like Hong Kong and Japan, making total dollar export figures difficult to pinpoint and adding to the uncertainty of where Canada fits in the overall picture.

Canadian Gem president Pierre Akkelian says events like a silent auction at Birks’ Montreal flagship store last month in benefit of the Concours de Musique help to promote Tahitian pearls. Canadian Gem and Birks jointly donated a Tahitian pearl necklace.

“This is how we’ve promoted pearls all along, through our customers and we do this on a regular basis,” Akkelian said. “Tahitian pearls are the sexiest of all the pearls. They’re not your mother’s pearls. They have a star quality and a mystic. They attract the young, the hip, the metrosexual. Tahitian pearls are everybody’s pearl.”

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Nataf said a tender for high-quality pearls is tentatively scheduled to be held in November in Tahiti.

Anyone wishing to share their ideas on how to promote Tahitian pearls in Canada can contact Nataf at

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