Gemgenève is honoured to count legendary New York dealer Paul Fisher as one of its elite exhibitors. At 93, Mr Fisher is the head of the fifth generation business, dealing in antique and estate jewellery, fine gemstones and particularly in natural pearls, a speciality that reaches back to the origins of the company in the 1850s in Vienna. The founder, Julius Fisher, traded in natural pearls, from the Arabian Gulf, and as Paul Fisher explains today, these pearls were much in demand, not only as jewellery, but also widely used as buttons, for the most fashionable gowns. In 1921 Julius Fisher’s grandsons Ferdinand and Robert opened Bruder Fisher, in Vienna, but when the introduction of Mikimoto’s cultured pearls around 1927, revolutionised the market, adversely affecting the price of natural pearls, they adapted by buying and selling fine jewellery instead.
In 1938, on the eve of War, Robert brought the family business to London, establishing a New York branch in 1941. Paul Fisher, Inc, New York was started by Robert’s son, Paul, in 1956, adding a London office in 1980, and later offices in Paris and Hong Kong.
Paul Fisher is widely acknowledged as the unrivalled world expert in natural pearls. Ronny Totah, for whom natural pearls are a passion, says, “Paul Fisher is the master, the doyen of pearls. He taught everyone in the industry today and has generously shared his passion and knowledge.” Today, Paul Fisher talks of the “ups and downs” in the market for natural pearls, adding, “the market re-emerged around 2002. Natural pearls came back, suddenly, in a big jump, largely because of a realisation of their scarcity.” The taste for natural pearls, an appreciation for their lustrous, understated beauty, their refinement and most of all their extreme rarity, as true miracles of nature, has been a feature of the overall climate of intense connoisseurship, part of the quest for the rarest of the rare, for the natural wonders of gem materials. Mr Fisher added that the thriving Indian market, the rise of a new, wealthy middle class, contributed to the surge of interest in the finest natural pearls in recent years. “Pearls are embedded in Indian culture,” he says. Virtually no natural pearls are found today, he explains, due the cost of fishing for these random flukes of nature, and also due to pollution in the oceans. The natural pearls on the market today are almost exclusively antique and at Gemgenève they will be on offer at Paul Fisher, as well as at various antique jewellery dealers, including Horovitz and Totah and Sandra Cronan, who has always treasured and collected them. Of Gemgeneve, and his decision to participate, Paul Fisher says, “This is a show for the specialists in our industry, a show for the crème de crème. Gemgenève is doing a great service for the international gem and jewellery trade.”