Australian south sea pearls

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JNA Awards 2015: Honourees - Paspaley Pearls

14 September 2015

Nicholas Paspaley, MBE began his pearling career in 1935 in the natural pearl and mother-of-pearl industry. In 1956, he founded Paspaley Pearling Company Pty Ltd. Up to that time, all attempts at pearl cultivation using the South Sea pearl oyster had proven commercially unsuccessful. Over the next 20 years, Nicholas Paspaley and his son Nick Paspaley, AC, worked towards making high-quality South Sea pearl culture a reality in Australia. By the early 1980s, Paspaley was producing cultured pearls of a quality never before seen. This pioneering spirit continues today.

In 1969, Nick Paspaley joined his father’s business and over the next three decades, developed and implemented key innovations that have transformed the global pearling industry including developments in pearl culture operation techniques; revolutionary transportation methods to reduce oyster mortality and construction of purpose-built vessels to allow operations to occur on the wild pearling grounds with minimum disruption to the host oysters.

A culture of excellence

Paspaley’s expertise is not limited to pearl production. The company has established a vertically integrated operation and is renowned as the world’s leading Australian South Sea pearl producer and a leading wholesaler of fine pearls with an exemplary auction system. Paspaley hosts successful pearl auctions in Hong Kong quarterly. The 54th Paspaley Pearl Auction in March 2015 achieved sales of nearly ¥1.032 billion (approximately $8.54 million). The company is also renowned for its effortlessly elegant jewellery designs and luxury retail offering.

Digital presence

The company recognises the importance of having a strong digital presence across a variety of channels. Paspaley’s pearl auction information is available on a dedicated online platform that can be accessed by auction attendees through their smartphones and tablets or via direct email.

The company offers an exceptional e-commerce experience and has created an educational website ( dedicated to strengthening the dialogue within the industry. Paspaley also ensures collateral is available in digital formats for easy distribution and sharing. The “Five Virtues” is a generic brochure designed purely as an educational tool and extensively used by top jewellery retailers worldwide, including a principal retailer in the US that uses the brochure across its 50 stores.

Green operations

Paspaley understands that a pristine environment is essential to the production of fine-quality pearls and has long been an advocate for the protection of the seas off northern Australia. Paspaley divers collect the wild oysters by hand from their natural habitat. This is an environmental friendly and sustainable form of commercial fishing that causes no damage to the seabed and produces no wasteful by-catch. The collection of wild oysters by hand is expensive and logistically complicated compared to growing oysters from spat in hatcheries, but the company recognises that this process guarantees a reliable source of high-quality oysters best suited for pearl culturing.

Combined with the carefully regulated quota system, this practice has earned the Australian pearling industry an international reputation as a model sustainable wild fishery.

Natural pearlers

Although cultured pearls remain Paspaley’s main focus, the company is probably the last notable source of natural South Sea pearls, regarded as the rarest and most valuable of all pearls. At Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Auction in 2014, a single natural Paspaley pearl sold for more than $400,000, and one pearl of a pair achieved nearly $4 million, setting a world record.

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