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Zhuji's pearl industry shines bright

ezhejiang.gov.cn| Updated: August 22, 2023 L M S

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Farmers visit a pearl cultivation base in Shanxiahu town, Zhuji. [Photo provided to ezhejiang.gov.cn]

Less than 40 kilometers southwest of the center of Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, lies Shanxiahu town in the northeast of Zhuji, a county-level city of Shaoxing.

The town, covering an area of less than 50 square kilometers, is home to the world's largest freshwater pearl production and distribution center. It contributes 80 percent of China's and 70 percent of the world's freshwater pearls, with last year's sales surpassing 40 billion yuan ($5.48 billion).

Established in 2008, the China Pearls & Jewelry International City serves as the world's largest freshwater pearl trading hub, combining pearl transactions, brand displays, and authentication services.

In the 1970s, pearl farmers sold raw pearls from stalls, and buyers had to travel long distances. Nowadays, with no more than a smartphone, pearls from Shanxiahu town can reach global markets.

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Customers browse pearl jewelry at the China Pearls & Jewelry International City in Shanxiahu town. [Photo/Jiang Liben for People's Daily]

Shi Li Xian Jewelry Co recently held a cross-border live broadcast event. Host Zhou Shiyi extracted well-rounded pearls from river mussels, presenting them in English to viewers in the United States.

Zhou, a recent graduate, returned to her hometown to work. Live broadcasts of pearl harvesting on platforms like TikTok have gained popularity. Up to 20,000 people watch her livestreams at once.

"Irregularly shaped and colorful baroque pearls are in high demand overseas," observed Qian Shaocong, the company's director. He formed a live streaming team of over 10 people after earning aboutoverseas social media operations in the latter half of 2020.

He sold Shanxiahu pearls abroad, targeting markets such as the US, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Qian is also planning overseas warehouses to expedite logistics and further promote Shanxiahu pearls.

Shanxiahu town is currently expediting preparations for a cross-border e-commerce comprehensive service center. It is introducing platforms like TikTok, Amazon, and overseas logistics giants like DHL.

"To sustain growth, small pearls must evolve into a major industry," said Yu Lingjun, the town’s Party chief. As of the end of 2022, over 25,000 entrepreneurs had flocked to Shanxiahu town, with more than 3,000 resident influencers.

Moreover, Shanxiahu town has welcomed over 200 domestic and international jewelry designers, hosting the World Pearl Design Contest for the third year in a row.

Shen Zhijiang, Party chief of Zhuji, remarked, "Zhuji's pearls have stepped onto the global stage from a 'small lake in the countryside.' Our goal is to create a billion-yuan industry."