Alumni Chapter

Golden Gate Chapter: Pearls with Renée Newman, GIA GG

A greater demand in the pearl world has resulted in new techniques and technology in the pearl and imitation pearl supply chain. Thanks to improved cultivation methods, the size of freshwater pearls has been increasing, their quality has improved, and their shapes have become more varied. Freshwater pearls often compete with Tahitian and Australian cultured South Sea pearls in terms of beauty and size.

Expert Renée Newman will explain why there are so many different types of cultured freshwater pearls (compared to 20 years ago) and will show examples of how designers are using cultured freshwater, Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls to create unique jewelry.

She will also discuss:

  • Unbleached natural-color cultured Akoya pearls.
  • Pearl imitations and treatments, and how they can be detected.
  • Natural-color cultured “black pearls” from Tahiti and the Sea of Cortez, which have become more colorful in the past 10 years.
  • Natural pearls from oysters, mussels, abalone, clams, scallops and conch snails.
  • During the hands-on session, Renée will guide you through the examination of three different types of pearls.

Special guest Betty Sue King, the “Pearl Goddess” and owner of King’s Ransom, will show examples of various types of pearls from her collection after Newman’s talk. You will also have an opportunity to examine and identify the pearls firsthand - bring your loupe.

After Newman received her GIA GG, she worked as a gemologist at a wholesale diamond company that also had a large inventory of pearls. Realizing there was a need for books on how to determine gem quality, she has spent the past 25 years writing gem and jewelry books and doing continual research to keep them updated. The first edition of her book, “Pearl Buying Guide,” was published in 1992 and the sixth edition was released earlier this year.

Newman will autograph her books and have them available for purchase at a discounted price of $15 each, including sales tax. Please bring cash or a check. Additional information is available at

King has more than 35 years of experience as a pearl buyer. She shares her insights and expertise as a pearl specialist for lectures – including at the AGTA Tucson GemFair™ and for the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) – and with editors and writers for trade journals. She has contributed to several publications such as GIA’s Gems & Gemology and Modern Jeweler and her photography has been published in magazines, books and websites.