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Review of www.mypacificpearls.com purchase

Discussion in 'Pearls' started by lamaMama, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. lamaMama
    Rough_Rock

    Messages:
    3
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    by lamaMama » Mar 25, 2012
    Dear all,

    A few months ago I saw a wonderful deal on Groupon website: for just 79$ (shipping included), one could get themselves "an 18-inch pearl necklace in a choice of eight colors from My Pacific Pearls’ online store (a $450 value)". Along with the pearls I was promised “care instructions and a certificate of authenticity and valuation. Groupon customers also receive two $50 vouchers toward future purchases from the wide array of jewelry on the My Pacific Pearls website; the vouchers must be used in two separate orders, each totaling at least $100.”
    I figured that I got nothing to lose, and as long as the pearls that come are not an absolute obvious fraud, I'd like to own a string. Thus, I went into this fully aware that I do not expect high quality. I should also put a disclaimer that I am not an expert in pearls or other jewelry. I am, however, an expert in a variety of laboratory techniques that can tell me a thing or two about what I got on hand.
    I am prompted to write this now, as I see Groupon has posted another chance for its subscribers to purchase a great deal from MyPacificPearls.com

    The http://www.mypacificpearls.com website promised:
    • Pearl Size: 9mm - 10mm
      Luster: Very High
      Nacre: Very Thick
      Surface: Very Good
      Pearl Shape: Near-Round to Round
      Matching: Very Good
      Number of Pearls: 45 - 50 Pearls Individually Double-Knotted
      Grade: High Quality AA+
      Species: Freshwater
      Design: Classic, Elegant, Timeless
      Occasion: Formal, Evening Wear, Business Wear, Weekend
      Rarity: Popular
      Clasp: Genuine 14K White Gold Filled Safety Clasp
      Stringing: Double-Knotted Double Strand Fine White Silk
      Necklace Length: 18 inches which can be extended to 19 inches at the clasp


    The pearls arrived within a month of order placement via regular USPS mail envelope. The velvet pouch enclosing the necklace started to gracefully disintegrate in my hands, leaving behind a dusty black powder. A certificate of authenticity was attached with some horrendous dollar value identified as the official price of the pearls. The two $50 vouchers are still – months later – nowhere to be seen.
    I have in my possession a necklace with a single Akoya pearl in it – this one was bought for a few hundred bucks from http://www.bluenile.com and given to me as a present by my mother. It served as my comparison baseline.

    PEARL SIZE:
    First thing first – I took out my digital calipers. The size of pearls ranged from 8.22mm to 9.71mm, with average value of 8.92mm. So if we squint a bit, we can believe the promised 9-10mm.

    LUSTER:
    I am not an expert, and will not even attempt to judge. See a very poor picture below

    NACRE:
    According to wiki, nacre is made of calcium carbonate and is the essence of the pearl – what the mollusc actually coats the irritant that is embedded in it. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nacre#Structure). Over time, the nacre is expected to form thicker and thicker on the surface of the pearl, as the irritating pearl inside a mollusk is kept there longer and longer.
    Using an X-Ray Fluorescent (XRF) machine I can tell composition of the object I am looking at by shooting X-rays and getting a characteristic signal back from the depth of up to ~0.05mm. Both my Akoya pearl and the pearl strings from My Pacific Pearls showed calcium (this tool is unable to detect carbon to verify calcium carbonate, but seeing calcium is good enough on its own. Not that many other things have calcium). So yes, we do have nacre on there. It is possible that the nacre is thinner than the 0.05mm that this machine can penetrate, but the plastic bead would not be detected by this instrument due to lightweight elements used in plastics.
    Most of the pearls on the market today are cultured pearls, meaning that an irritant was introduced inside a mollusk at one point in time over which the current pearl was grown onto. I have read somewhere that X-ray imaging should be able to show the delineation between the original bead and the nacre formed on top, since the two materials will have some difference in density. In fact, this was true of my Akoya pearl which appears to have about 0.5mm of nacre on the surface of the 4.5mm diameter base bead. No such delineation was seen on the pearls from this necklace. Based on the resolution of the X-Ray machine I used, I expect the thickness of nacre on these pearls to me <0.02mm

    SURFACE:
    I was told that the surface would be ‘very good’. This is hard to judge, unless you have experience, which I do not. Comparing the surface of this strand to the Akoya pearl I have, a few key differences are clear. The surface of the $79 necklace contained flaws: occasional surface depressions that extended a good 0.2mm into the pearl; small dimples; lines of discoloration. The Akoya pearl is close to perfect with no such defects.

    PEARL SHAPE:
    As promised, it is near-round to round. No complaints there.

    MATCHING:
    Well, all the pearls in the strand are similar in their defects, although clearly no two are the same. They do match well. I should note that no one, even after being specifically asked to do so, could distinguish flaws on these pearls while standing at a comfortable talking distance (a few feet) from me. Everyone, however, was able to notice the imperfections I described under ‘surface’ once holding them and getting very close to them.

    NUMBER OF PEARLS:
    47 pearls. Right between 45 and 50, as promised


    GRADE, SPECIES, DESIGN, OCCASION, RARITY:

    No comment, since I can’t judge.

    CLASP:
    Wiki to the rescue: what is a ‘gold filled clasp’? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold-filled_jewelry says that this is finishing technique where gold is bonded to the surface of a base metal under heat and pressure. It also says that “gold-filled items are 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating”. (Side Note: HELLO – plating can be done almost to any thickness desirable from few tens of nanometers to tens of microns (granted, the latter one is much more expensive). Boo-hoo on Wiki) Nevertheless, this means that I should be able to detect gold on these clasps using an X-Ray Fluorescence machine I used to detect calcium on the pearls.
    Well, unfortunately, no gold here. There is copper, a tiny bit of tin. A little bit of further analysis with an Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (EDS) detector mounted inside the Scanning Electron microscope (SEM), and I could clearly tell that we have SnPb plating as the surface finish.

    STRINGING:
    I was promised double-knotted fine white silk. What I got is in fact double knotted, and was white. But it is not silk. The difference between natural fibers such as cotton and silk, and their modern synthetic counterparts can be easily seen by a burn test. Natural fibers, once lighted, leave behind ash that can be easily brushed off and the ends of the strand will appear neat and trim. The polyester and nylon strands, however, will bead-up and form a brown/black ball at the end of the strand – and this is precisely what we are seeing here. Both ends of the My Pacific Pearls necklace appear to be burnt nylon strings.
    NECKLACE LENGTH:
    Yes, indeed the necklace is 18” long


    CONCLUSION
    All in all, I would say I got what I paid for. I would rather see Groupon modify their claims on their promotion to reflect the fact that the product does not come with a 14-kt white-gold filled clasp and a promise of $50 coupons. I would also like to see MyPacificPearls.com retract the statement on their web page claiming‘thick’ nacre, silk strand, and gold-filled clasp.

    Sometime in the future I might want to have these pearls re-strung with real silk strand and an actual decent clasp. At that time I might choose to keep one pearl out to cross-section it to see the actual thickness of the nacre on the pearl.

    Pearl_001.jpg

    Pearl_008.jpg

    XrayComparison.jpg

    Pearl_005.jpg
     
  2. lamaMama
    Rough_Rock

    Messages:
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    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    by lamaMama » Mar 25, 2012
    I stand corrected. The pearl I used for comparison is NOT Akoya, it is Tahitian. And it was bought through www.zales.com and NOT www.bluenile.com
    Woopsie!
     
  3. NacreLover
    Brilliant_Rock

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  4. The Old Pearler
    Rough_Rock

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    by The Old Pearler » Mar 25, 2012
    The company actions are quite unfortunate. I surmise they recognise the reviews and have filled the negative void with sham videos promoting their product and enterprise. It casts a poor light over the industry.

    Whilst a stellar review, I feel obliged to add that freshwater pearls do not measure for nacre thickness as they are complete nacre without a bead core.
     
  5. NacreLover
    Brilliant_Rock

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    by NacreLover » Mar 26, 2012
    From Pearl Guide:
    Freshwater Pearl Nucleation:

    Freshwater pearls must also be nucleated, but in a different fashion. In lieu of the mother-of-pearl bead, freshwater pearl farmers nucleate their mussels with small pieces of mantle tissue. These mantle tissue pieces are not placed in the reproductive organ of the mussel, but in the fleshy mantle tissue. Because the mantle tissue is large and located on either side of the shell, each mussel can withstand many insertions. Most mussels receive 12 to 16 insertions on either side of the valve for a total of 24 to 32. The large number of freshwater pearls produced per mussel accounts for some of the diminished value between freshwater pearls and their saltwater cousins. But, because the mantle tissue is dissolved into the pearl-sac, freshwater pearls are solid nacre.
     
  6. lamaMama
    Rough_Rock

    Messages:
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    by lamaMama » Mar 26, 2012
    Thank you for the education about freshwater pearls. The description you provided of a pearl made fully of nacre completely matches my observations in X-ray.


    Re pearl guide - I did find that thread and shared a link to this post with that forum. I also provided a copy of it to Groupon with the expression of my sincere disappointments that the company might have willingly mislead its customers. I would be more outraged if the metal clasp contained nickel - a known irritant against the skin for some people.
     
  7. PearlsOfJoy
    Rough_Rock
    Trade

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    by PearlsOfJoy » Mar 27, 2012
    **edited by moderator. please remember our policies on commenting on the merchandise of other vendors**

    The best thing you can do is make a complaint to Groupon and/or the BBB.
     
  8. iLander
    Ideal_Rock

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    by iLander » Mar 27, 2012
    Hmmm . . .

    A $450 pearl necklace that is sold for 79 cents.

    It turns out to be fake.

    I'm surprised. . . ;)

    Welcome to PS! Feel free to use that equipment to show us other cool stuff!
     
  9. NacreLover
    Brilliant_Rock

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    by NacreLover » Mar 28, 2012
    $79.00 Not 79 cents.
     
  10. iLander
    Ideal_Rock

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    by iLander » Mar 29, 2012
    Oh, you're right. :oops:

    I think they're worth about what you paid.
     
  11. NacreLover
    Brilliant_Rock

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