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SHOPPING IN SHANGHAI--Pearls, "antiques," and all else

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Dec 17th, 2009, 04:47 AM
  #1
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SHOPPING IN SHANGHAI--Pearls, "antiques," and all else

I hope to compile some info and addresses for good shopping spots in Shanghai. I've already come across this excellent thread by our very own Shanghai expert, Shanghainese:


http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...n-shanghai.cfm

Near the top of my shopping list are pearls. I am not interested in the finest quality--I want fairly inexpensive "coin" pearls and would like to find a place similar to the Pearl Market in Beijing where one chooses strands and has them strung into a necklace.

It appears that there may be better places to buy than at Pearl City; see this info from an expat site, dated 2008:


"Pearls: As long as you stay away from Pearl City on Nanjing Lu you should be OK. I did price comparison on pearl products this week and Hong Qiao market is about 40%-45% less on the asking price from Pearl city even on identical item in identical store at both locations. YuYuan and Hong Qiao have similar pricing and I have yet to check out S&T museum to compare them to 3 others. Volume discounts are pretty good both at Yu Yuan (288 Fuyou) Lu and at Hong Qiao for wholesale purchases. Pearl City on Nanjing is about 50% higher than US online pearl services and ebay on similar items.

I am not sure how deeply they will discount on Nanjing as their asking price is so high to start with I don't think they will deep discount. Started to haggle there but lost patience and did not buy. Pretty good discounts available from asking at Yu Yuan and Hong Qiao, but you must know what you are looking at. Discounts there appeared to be more related to how long they have been stuck with a particular item. Also depends on initial price point and of course setting. Higher end material in 14k gold not as negotiable in HongQiao and Yu Yuan and looked like about 40% off on one off purchases was best that they would give. Other run of the mill product could yield 50% off or more from asking.

Asking prices on same material appears to vary by about 20%-25% between stalls at Hong Qiao. Of course, the higher the asking, the more discount you can haggle.

I am not GG/MGA or GIA certified but have been investing in jewelery for years and have a pretty good idea what i am looking at. Hope this helps."


Question: Is the Hong Qiao referred to above near the domestic airport? How far from the Nanjing Road area is this?



Please feel free to offer your own shopping tips; last time (2007) I had a pretty good experience and lots of fun on DongTai Road..is this area still recommended? Anyplace else for "antique/vintage" Chinoiserie? Porcelain beads? Anyplace at all similar to the dirt market in Beiijing?

Many thanks!! I am very excited about the prospect of returning to Shanghai!
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Dec 17th, 2009, 05:09 AM
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Best bargains in pearls - bar none- is the greenhills shopping center in Manila. Worth the trip alone just for the pearls and the type of jewelry they make with these you will not see anywhere else.
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Dec 17th, 2009, 06:47 AM
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call your friend barbara bush for suggestions
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Dec 17th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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The problems of buying pearls or any other high-priced items in China has been discussed very extensively here, and China is the last place on the planet you should be looking for such items. As even the posting quoted admits prices well above those asked at home are often (unsurprisingly) asked in China, and the obtaining of a big 'discount' simply indicates a) that (of course) an overly high price was asked in the first place, and b) that you are almost certainly paying too much for what is very likely to be a fake, low value, or re-manufactured pearl now. The chances of getting a discount on a valuable item in a tourist-haunted shopping area that sees you coming a mile off are as near zero as makes no difference.

But rather than repeat all the arguments, here are some re-posts of earlier posts on this subject:

To assert that the Chinese are very canny business people, and yet to hold that they sell valuable items at well below the price that could be obtained for them if traded internationally, requires the kind of doublethink that qualifies you for instant membership of the Party.

If you are not an expert in pearls, you shouldn't be shopping. If you are an expert in pearls, you won't be shopping. If you are looking for fakes then fair enough, but only if you have carefully priced up fake pearls at home before you leave in order to assure you are getting a bargain on those, which is slightly more likely as long as you have done your homework.

Not only do the Chinese have long expertise in faking pearls, they have recently come up with a new way of remanufacturing low quality pearls to look like good quality ones. For this kind of shopping, as for carpets, antiques of any kind, and jade, you need to be experienced with the products in question and very well informed, or you might just as well stop a passer-by, open your wallet, and invite them to help themselves.

The point made about kick-backs is that the fact that sums of up to 50% are available to tour guides means that several multiples of whatever would be a reasonable price is routinely being charged to foreigners, leaving plenty of room for a massive kick-back to be paid, regardless of whether a tour guide is there to take it or not.

Even supposing, although it's highly unlikely, that one person contrary to common sense did actually get good quality pearls for a substantial discount on real market prices, that is no indication that anyone else will. In fact on the rare occasion money is paid for a hard-nosed expert written assessment of Chinese-bought pearls, this ALWAYS ends in tears, arguments with the credit card company over stopping payment (where possible), and so on.

[NB: One Fodors' reader did recently have her purchase formally valued at home and found she'd managed to pay a fair market price. If you're going to pay a fair market price (not an especially low price, and even that you'll achieve this is highly unlikely) you might as well pay it... at home, where you've some recourse if something goes wrong.]

Peter N-H


> For pearls, I've seen good reviews for Fang Hua (in Beijing and Shanghai) and for Amy's Pearls in Shanghai. Are these actually reputable?

As mentioned above, there aren't any 'reputable' dealers in the way you would understand 'reputable'. China is not the place to buy pearls, and if your reference is to glowing reports on user-contributed websites this is simply the blind leading the blind (after being led there by tour guides, which further guarantees the con if any guarantee was needed).

> Duo Yun Xuan in Shanghai (on Nanjing Road in the pedestrian zone) is supposedly state owned. I was there last week and chatted casually with a staff member, who assured me that they wouldn't sell any fakes because the place is owned by the state.

The entire government of the state is a con, and myriad state-owned enterprises make it their business to con the foreigner out of as much money as possible, not to mention the Chinese populace itself. Even the very post offices were recently caught selling 'official' silver coins with dramatically less silver in them than claimed.

The chances of a bracelet at ¥20 actually containing jade? About the same as the golden hairband on a Barbie doll actually being gold leaf. Get real.

At the risk of going a bit blue in the face: You should not shop in China for anything of high value, rarity, or antiquity, unless you are seriously expert in gems/jade/antiques/etc. If you are seriously expert in these things, you won't be shopping, unless it's at a price that recognises that some 500-year-old celadon vase, for instance, was actually made a couple of months ago and then roughed up and buried for a while. This has been going on for centuries, and even English-language guidebooks as far back as the 1920s give the same warnings.

Peter N-H


> Obviously I'm not an expert, but a blanket warning like "don't buy anything" just doesn't seem particularly useful.

Since no one has made any such recommendation (it always helps to read the postings), this is a straw man. There are things in China that are well worth buying, although what these are will obviously vary according to the tastes and interests of the buyers.

What has been recommended is that visitors to China avoid buying items with a notionally high value, and especially items about which they have no special expertise. (If they have that expertise, then they truly won't be in need of this advice. It's everyone else who should be paying attention.) Common sense reasons to do with market pricing, factual reasons to do with the nature of kick-backs within the tourism industry, and reasons to do with the long history of such fakery in China have all been provided.

If this saves many readers (and there are many readers of these pages beyond those actually engaged in conversation) from being gulled, then I imagine most will regard it as good advice (although some who have already shopped will be unhappy with it). Others are at liberty to ignore it, but simply disliking it will not of itself make any contrary advice better.

If you imagine that shopping done by celebrities in the public eye on politically organised photo-opportunity tours in any way represents real shopping for real values following real research, or that Clinton and Blair are knowledgeable about pearls, or that they get the same deals as anyone else, then there's not much to be said. Everyone else should be aware that the Clinton-Blair imprimatur that the shop will claim is of course not anything of the kind, and that as a result of the publicity brought about by this visit, prices will not doubt have risen even further, and there will be even greater risk of misadventure. Shop there if and only if you know your pearls from your elbow.

It might be added that the last place you should be shopping for items easily findable in ordinary department stores is a location such as Silk Street, specifically constructed to extract the maximum amount of money from short-term foreign visitors not familiar with local norms.

The fact that there is fakery in other countries has no relevance whatsoever to the sale of fake, over-priced goods in China. Nor is the situation otherwise the same as in the West: there are no real antiques on sale in China to be fortuitously discovered for sale at fake prices, as any real antiques are either illegally dug up or stolen and sold clandestinely, or smuggled overseas. All curiosities are presented as being as old as you can be persuaded to swallow--it's not the date of manufacture that affects their age, but more the gullibility of the shopper.

> Where do the locals go if they want to buy pearls or [insert another similar item] and, to go back to the original question, what are reasonable prices?

The locals are not big on buying pearls, and when they do they pay prices that recognise (as they do) the (lack of) quality of what they are buying--real local market prices. As for going back to the original question, this will only find you directed back to the answers already given, and as already pointed out, the range of items available is far too vast to provide answers on such a colossally vague question.

Peter N-H


> Ok, I agree that I rephrased poorly, but "don't buy anything that you're not an expert in" is not particularly useful either.

Again, this is a straw man, as no one has given this advice. Yet again, the advice (blueness appearing in face) is not to buy notionally valuable items in China about which you have no expertise. Precious and semi-precious items and antiques have been cited in particular. Carpets should also be avoided.

With items of no particular value at don't-have-to think-about-it-too-much prices, of course there's always the risk of overpaying, but the sums involved are not too painful.

> I mean, people are always interested in buying something they are not experts in, whether they are in China or elsewhere -- which is why people will continue to ask these questions.

And supposing this is true, how does it affect the answer? Will it suddenly reduce the amount of fakes of supposedly valuable items, the false claims made about them, or the overcharging?

If people want to shop for pearls they should shop at home where reliable trading laws apply and redress can be sought for misrepresentation if that (infinitely less likely than in China) has taken place. Not being an expert in Chinese handicrafts, for instance, means it's unlikely that a fair price will be paid for them by the short-term visitor, but unless the visitor is particularly silly and ignores the cautions on the link already posted, and/or shops at some tourist maelstrom or in the company of a tour guide, the sums involved will be modest, and the item purchased will provide pleasure on the basis of what it actually is, not what it is supposed to be (unique, antique, especially valuable). There are, also, some real bargains to be found in China, just not in tourist-haunted markets or amongst supposedly valuable items.

> Presumably even "real locals" have a need for pearls or knockoffs or jewelry once in a while (think about weddings).

This pre-supposes local people think about weddings in the same way as (some) Westerners, value the same adornments, and have the same ideas about gifts. But something on this topic has already been said.

> Surely, if a question is too vague, we can always help refine the question rather than dismiss the question as being too vague to answer.

Supposing this is so, wouldn't it be best to do so rather than instruct others what they should be saying here? Speaking solely for myself, I don't find I can do much with a question along the lines of 'How much do things cost?' Nor do I feel obliged to try. In general, given the rapid speed of change in China and the numerous variables involved in the purchase price even of a particular well-defined item, I personally think it best to give general guidelines which those visiting China can apply to many situations to provide a better outcome for themselves. This I have done in various comments above, and in the link provided.

> One has got to start somewhere.

By asking a precise question than can be answered in a few paragraphs without a lifetime of research might well be the place.

> If Amy's Pearls is disreputable, then let's try to come up with another retailer that's worth visiting, for example.

Now as bright blue in the face as a Wiccan drenched in woad, I refer you to earlier postings from myself and others which have repeatedly pointed out that there are NO reliable vendors of pearls in China, as you would understand the word 'reliable', and that China is not the place to be shopping for such things. Ergo, if the syllogism cannot be completed without assistance, no other Chinese retailer of pearls can be described as 'worth visiting', except with the caveats repeatedly given.

Peter N-H
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Dec 17th, 2009, 11:09 AM
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Peter: A big hand of applause for laying out the facts so concisely! You are a gem, even if a crusty curmudgeonly gem at times. (no offense is meant). I am sure that you are, indeed, blue in the face seeing as many of us appear to pay no mind to your often sage advice.

But please keep in mind that I am not looking for valuable pearls--I am thinking more of the "coin" type pearls that I bought at the Beijing Pearl Market...I think they cost me in the neighborhood of $35US. I saw similar necklaces here in NYC for $300 or so. So I care not a whit if they are "real" or not. Same goes for the antique-style household adornments.If the fakery is so deft that I cannot tell the difference, and if I am not paying a big price, I really don't care. I think some of your cynicism has rubbed off on me and I also got a bit of an idea of the lay of the land during my last trip. But I will tell you that the green "shagreen" box that I bought at the Beijing weekend "dirt market" last time looks pretty damn good on my mantel! (Right next to it is my "antique" acupuncture woman--wood with Chinese markings dotting the entire body that supposedly correspond to accupuncture points but for all I know may be the phone numbers of Harbin's finest ladies of the evening.

Your message has sunk in to such an extent that I am not expecting to find any "old" treasures--most especially not in any market that I would be able to visit.

Now I know you must have some favorite places to shop in Shanghai......
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Dec 17th, 2009, 01:50 PM
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Anyone else notice how deftly the OP informed Peter NH that she was going to ignore his sage advice on pearls and then asked for his advice of shopping locales?
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Dec 19th, 2009, 04:42 AM
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I did NOT ignore Peter's advice. I merely added further information to let him know that I am not looking for "real" (expensive) pearls.

And, Mr. Snarkey (Panda, that is), there are many style icons who are NOT BArbara Bush and who wear pearls. And I am NOT looking for classic, white, "good" lady-like pearls. The ones I bought were dark gray/black (called "coin" pearls in China) and look more like ethnic jewelery than something to wear to a boring DC cocktail party or a dog and panda show.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 04:44 AM
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This gives you an idea of the ones I like--mine looks like this but the pearls are darker:

http://www.itsatreasure.com/store/me...s/P12JN192.jpg
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Dec 19th, 2009, 05:47 AM
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Let's see. I use the word deftly and the OP uses the word snarkey [sic]. Little wonder she's not hunting for good pearls. Not to mention her slippery attempt to turn ignore into an addition.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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Pearls (whatever kind) are getting to be quite the thing since Julia Child wears them in Julie and Julia! I even got my pearls out from Beijing and wore them yesterday.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 11:54 AM
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I saw the exact type of pearls I am looking for today in New York City, at Beads of Paradise, a shop specializing in exotic beads, jewelery, and African and Asian crafts and textiles. The price was $168 for one strand. I paid about $30US for a 3-strand necklace in Beijing at the Pearl Market.

Pat: I loved that film! The pearls I am looking for a a bit less conservative, though--see link to photo above...I think any pearls would look good with casual dress, though..I think I would wear the classic ones with jean-type clothing.

Panda, speaking of "sic," you had better be careful of I will sic something fierce in your direction.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 12:37 PM
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Oh crunchy......''speaking of [sic]'', I wish you would.......in said direction......asap......Please!! Projectile if possible.

Pandas don't have the ability to regurgitate (though some appear to do so), infuriatingly regularly. So, ..... your contribution may well be gratefully received.

Deftly ??.....an adverb not often associated with pandas.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 12:45 PM
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In hoc sic gloria panda.

Leigh, our paws are a lot more dexterious than they appear. We can easily handle pearls and the like. It's how we can handle the cards when we play poker.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 02:36 PM
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Yes, I'm aware that I am a misspeller of many words, dexterious [sic] being only one of them.
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Dec 19th, 2009, 04:42 PM
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I like the pearls in your photo link!
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Dec 20th, 2009, 06:23 AM
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Aren't those pearls great?! I really hope that I can find something similar in Shanghai! They were very easy to find in Beijing.
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Dec 29th, 2009, 03:20 AM
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Hoping Shanghainese will comment here..
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Dec 29th, 2009, 10:00 AM
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Check my report I topped for U. I also found pearls in Tongli cheaper than Shanghai and you can chose the pearls, pick the design, drink tea and watch them being strung.
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Dec 29th, 2009, 10:03 AM
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But, S, I am not going to Tongli!

Do you know anything about the Hong Qiao mentioned in the original past?
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Dec 29th, 2009, 05:06 PM
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No, sorry ...
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