| Hong Kong Jewellery 香港珠寶
News & Highlight


  • Cultivating Hong Kong’s akoya pearls
  • The lustrous pearls grown in Hong Kong
  • Preparing Metakaku® nuclei for cultivation
  • Education is essential to rejuvenate the traditional industry.

Pearler sees future beyond pearls

Established in 1990, Hong Kong’s Fukui Shell Nucleus Factory is a major global manufacturer and supplier of pearl nucleus. In April 2014, the company ventured into akoya pearl cultivation in the Hong Kong area. Project director David Wong shares with Hong Kong Jewellery the latest on local pearling activities, his aspirations to do more for the value chain of the pearl industry in Hong Kong and his interest in moving beyond pearls.

Approximately 60,000 pearl oysters were cultivated in the sea located near Sai Kung West Country Park in Hong Kong in 2018. According to Wong, this represents a 100-fold increase over the previous amount of 500 shells.

“During the April harvest last year, the output rate was over 65 percent. We suffered losses due to the typhoons last year. But it remained a good investment for us thanks to our business model,” Wong said. He believes unpredictable weather makes the outlook uncertain.

Besides uncertainties caused by the weather, Wong said that the company’s pearling activities face a number of other challenges. These include the lack of government support for non-IT related business innovation, relatively long waits for startups to see a return on investment (ROI), and the need to undertake promotions and public education in house.

Hong Kong is widely recognised as a global hub for pearl trading, but few people know about the city’s long history with pearls, dating back some 1,500 years. “Only in the 1950s with the support of the Japanese did Hong Kong begin pearl cultivation. The government also fully supported this development by enforcing laws that favoured the industry. Nevertheless, in the 1960s the industry began to shrink. According to the late industry guru Ho Pak To, a pioneer of pearl cultivation in Hong Kong in the 1950s, it would have been beneficial for Hong Kong to grow its own pearls,” Wong said.

After almost five years of cultivation, Wong said the understanding and knowledge of pearl farming in Hong Kong remains limited. He admitted that pearl farming in itself is not an appealing business venture. It is highly risky and very difficult, and there is no immediate ROI. “Efforts to develop an interest in and promote an understanding of pearl farming must go beyond discussions of buying and selling and appeals to traditional notions of seeing pearls as personal adornment,” he added.

Technology is a tool that can make pearl farming more understandable to the public and the trade, Wong believes. The pearl authentication technology Metakaku® developed by Fukui is an example how this works. This technology ensures the authenticity of pearls by tracking their life cycles in a non-destructive way using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology  to identify the self-developed nucleus. For customers, this process adds emotional value to the pearls by ensuring that every pearl is unique with its own story that can be traced along the supply chain.

“RFID is merely a medium enabling the pearl to communicate. We hope to understand its significance from other perspectives,” said Wong. “For example, we are exploring how RFID technology can enhance the value chain and encourage Hong Kong to become more than just a pearl trading hub. We want to build our industry, bringing the focus back to Hong Kong and making Hong Kong the new leader of the global cultured pearl industry. We seek ways to work with the government to make our industry in Hong Kong a benchmark for genuine innovation and sustainable development,” he elaborated.

David Wong sees fierce competitions in the pearl industry in 2019. “There are over 30 local brands that design and sell pearl jewellery and accessories in Hong Kong. Add to these a growing number of foreign brands coming to the city because it offers a window to mainland China, and I would say competition for traditional markets is going to be huge and intense. The year 2019 will rattle those who have a weak foundation or rely on luck,” he said.

Wong revealed that in 2019 Fukui Shell Nucleus Factory will focus on increasing the exposure of pearls through various cross-industry activities. The company is also looking for opportunities to develop applications of the Metakaku® technology for industries outside of the pearl sector. (Photo courtesy: Fukui Shell Nucleus Factory)


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