From the Vault
By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
It was February 1981 in Tucson, Ariz., when fledgling gemstone dealer Aziz Basalely saw a multistrand natural Pearl necklace. Basalely, the present-day owner of Eliko Pearl, which specializes in cultured Pearls of all types, was in town to exhibit at a gem show in the days before the AGTA GemFairTM Tucson. He was selling mainly colored gemstones at the time, but a friend who sold antique jewelry knew he liked Pearls and offered him a five-strand natural Pearl necklace with a karat-gold clasp.
He appreciated the rarity of the natural Pearls, which GIA says are saltwater from a Pinctada species oyster, and their soft, matte beauty. He bought the necklace and put it away for safekeeping.
“I thought it could be an investment,” he says. “It’s special because it is a multistrand and the Pearls are well-matched. Plus, there aren’t any new discoveries of large quantities of natural Pearls. They are as rare to find in the market as they are in the wild.”
Over the years, Basalely has considered selling it but hasn’t come across the right opportunity. Ten years ago, he asked an auction house to examine it but ultimately decided to keep it. “We haven’t seen anything comparable to it at auction,” adds Raphael Basalely, who works with his dad.
At this point, the safe in the Eliko office may be the necklace’s home for another 42 years. The Pearls’ only nacreous companions are cultured—not for a lack of beauty, but because natural Pearls are downright difficult to source.
A sale in 2008 was the last time Aziz bought some—four for another dealer’s broken necklace. Ironically, Aziz didn’t fly to Bahrain—a destination for natural Pearls—to source them, but to the birthplace of the cultured Pearl. “I managed to find those for him in Japan,” he says.
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