UPDATE 2/28 - Yesterday, we reported on certain Pearl Parties. We sought comment from the company before the story, but did not hear back. After the story aired, they contacted us and told us that they no longer use the outdated appraisal chart we described in our story. They also disagreed with our expert jeweler and said the material of jewelry was listed as Stainless Steel. Our independent expert believed it may include lead. In addition, the company stands by their product and says they are ‘genuine fresh water’ pearls. The founder and CEO says calling Vantel Pearls ‘plastic’ is an outrage. Finally, we mispronounced the term Akoya as Ayoka. We regret any confusion.
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Opening oysters has become a new age take on the Tupperware or makeup parties hosted in living rooms for decades.
The ability to broadcast live to anyone on Facebook has hundreds tuning in as consultants open shells to reveal colorful pearls inside.
One Massachusetts-based company, Vantel Pearls, has exploded using this new technology.
The parties are simple. You order a setting, choose an oyster, and wait to see what kind of pearl is hiding inside.
For a time, consultants used a chart compiled by the National Pearl Association of the United States to appraise each pearl.
No such association exists, and most consultants have stopped giving a dollar value to the pearls.
After opening the pearl, it's sent to Vantel where it is placed into a setting.
Western Mass News Reporter Mary Cate Mannion bought a pearl and chose the dog key chain tag which retails for $40.28.
The order arrived with an additional door prize, a black pearl peacock necklace that lists in the Vantel catalog for $85.
Then, we took the key chain and necklace to Furnari Jewelers in Chicopee.
It turned out the pearl was plastic, and the metal on the necklace could be made out of lead.
"As far as precious jewelry there is nothing worth anything in there. If you were to sell it to me you would get nothing for it maybe 20 cents for scrapping and melting it down," said Tony Furnari.
Furnari said the practice of opening oysters has been a big industry in tourist areas for years.
In fact, Vantel's website said Joan Cabral was inspired to start the business after seeing vendors shuck oysters for a pearl.
Vantel's website said these are genuine pearls, but Tony Furnari said they are not akoya pearls.
In the opening videos, Vantel party hosts claim the oysters contain akoya pearls from Asia.
Tony Furnari said that isn't the case, and warns about buying a piece of jewelry without laying your eyes on it.
Western Mass News reached out to Angie of Angie's Pearl's and Blessings to see if she had any comments on the appraised value of the pearls. She has not replied to our inquiries.
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