Short Answer: You can become a pearl consultant by signing up with a multilevel marketing company that sells oysters and pearls. The cost to become a pearl consultant varies by company but typically starts around $30 to $100 for a starter kit. Once you have a starter kit, you can begin hosting parties (either in person or on social media) to sell the product. However, it is important to note the risks of working with some multilevel marketing companies. If you want to work with pearls in a different capacity, you can consider becoming an appraiser, designer, or wholesaler. Below, we have more on how to become a pearl consultant, some factors to consider before you sign up, as well as the list of major pearl party companies in the U.S.
How to Become a Pearl Consultant
The fastest and most popular way to become a pearl consultant is to work as an independent consultant with a multilevel marketing (MLM) company. The structure of most MLM companies generally works the same way:
- First, you apply to become a consultant; all pearl party companies offer online applications
- Some companies have an extensive application process, while others allow you to simply sign up and start right away
- Also, note that some companies like Gifts From Under the Sea will only let you apply to become a consultant if you provide the ID of a referring consultant.
- As soon as you are approved, you can purchase a starter kit; almost all MLMs require an initial investment, and some require consultants to purchase more products to have on hand.
- Once you have a small inventory, you host your own parties, events, Facebook streams, etc. to market and sell your products, and you make a commission on the sales (typically around 20% to 25% for pearl consultants).
- You will likely be expected to recruit new consultants, and you receive a small commission on their sales as well.
- You typically move up in levels at the company based on your sales and recruitment numbers; commission percentages increase with each level.
With the rise of virtual pearl parties via Facebook Live streams, revenue from parties has increased from around a few hundred dollars to as much as several thousand dollars per party, allowing some top-level consultants to earn more than $100,000 per year.
Any company importing oysters from a foreign company is required to have import/export licenses, per the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. One pearl party company — It’s Pearl Time — informed us that it purchases the proper licensing and its independent consultants fall under the company’s licenses and permits. Since the company is acting as the wholesaler (not you), it is unlikely that you will need to have any additional licensing. However, you may still want to check with your desired company to make sure you’re covered.
Concerns About Multilevel Marketing
Note that while many MLM companies boast about allowing you to be your own boss, set your own hours, and have unlimited earning potential, they typically require their consultants to purchase (and sometimes keep purchasing) inventory to the point that you may be spending more on products than you’re able to earn from sales.
Also, beware of the pyramid nature of MLM companies. While some consultants are able to succeed and make a living off of selling to customers, many MLM companies are driven by recruitment and their profits come from sales to new consultants purchasing inventory, not sales to actual customers. According to The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the line between an MLM company and an illegal pyramid scheme is that in order for the structure to be legitimate, the company will pay you for retail sales without requiring you to recruit new consultants.
Concerns About Pearl Quality
Additionally, some customers, consultants, and pearl experts have raised concerns about the quality of the pearls from some MLM pearl companies. In a 2017 interview with Buzzfeed, pearl expert Jeremy Shepherd noted that the appraisal system used by most pearl consultants is largely made up, and “anyone can give a value to a pearl because there are no set values.” Shepherd also noted that to an expert eye, it is clear that many of the pearls sold at consultants’ parties are commercially farmed, freshwater pearls that were then inserted into saltwater oysters.
If you’re considering becoming a consultant for a particular company, you may want to evaluate the quality of the products before you commit to buying a large inventory to sell. For example, you might consider seeking the opinion of a local jeweler or nearby pearl expert.
Pearl Party Companies
Pearl consultants typically host pearl parties either in person or via social media, during which participants are invited to purchase oysters and the consultant will open the oysters to reveal what kind of pearl is inside. Below, we’ve provided the list of the major pearl party companies that operate in the U.S.
- Sells: Pearl oysters; jewelry to be used with the pearls; other jewelry, such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces; various home and apparel products
- How to become a consultant: Sign up with Aww Shucks online
- Cost to become a consultant: About $30 to $175 for a consultant kit
- Find out more
- Sells: Pearls; pearl rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets; pearl cages, and jewelry sets
- How to become a consultant: Start by filling out an application and purchasing a starting kit on the Delta Pearls website.
- Cost to become a consultant: About $100 for an initial kit and oysters
- Find out more
Gifts From Under the Sea
- Sells: Oysters, jewelry and accessories for your oyster pearls, mounted jewelry, diamonds, various gift items
- How to become a consultant: Sign up with Gifts From Under the Sea online. (In order to complete the online application, you will need the ID of a current Gifts From Under the Sea consultant.)
- Cost to become a consultant: About $30 for a basic starter kit; additional kit options are available from $200 to $750.
- Find out more
It’s Pearl Time
- Sells: Oysters; pearl jewelry, including rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces; pearl-related apparel and accessories
- How to become a consultant: Apply to work with It’s Pearl Time online
- Cost to become a consultant: From $35 to $70
- Find out more
Pearls Gone Wild
- Sells: Oysters, loose pearls, jewelry and accessories for the pearls
- How to become a consultant: Apply to work with Pearls Gone Wild online
- Cost to become a consultant: About $200 for a consultant kit
- Find out more
- Sells: Pearls; jewelry and accessories for the pearls; other pearl jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings
- How to become a consultant: Fill out a Vantel Pearls application and purchase a consultant kit online
- Cost to become a consultant: Starting at $100 for a consultant kit, plus an additional $100 oyster deposit
- Find out more
Becoming a Certified Pearl Specialist
If you’re interested in working with pearls but don’t want to work with a multilevel marketing company, you can pursue a career as a pearl specialist. One option is to enroll in a pearl specialist certification course offered by the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA).
The CPAA offers an online course that will educate you on pearls and allow you to become a certified pearl specialist upon completion. If you’re interested, you can register online; the cost of enrollment is about $600, but the CPAA occasionally offers codes for a discount or free enrollment.
With this certification (and/or other specialized training), you can pursue part-time or full-time roles like the following:
- Pearl/jewelry appraiser
- Pearl buyer
- Wholesaler (may need to get import/export licenses)
- Pearl/jewelry designer
- Auction specialist
- Jewelry manufacturer or bench jeweler
Additional educational opportunities are available through the Gemological Institute of America, though it specializes in on-campus education and only has two campuses in the U.S. — in New York and California.
The requirements to become a pearl party consultant vary by company; some let you apply online while others require a more detailed application process. We’ve listed several multilevel marketing pearl party companies above. If none of those are right for you, you might want to consider becoming a certified pearl specialist.
For a large list of more options for side income, see our article on how to make money on the side. For more specific information about home party businesses, see our article on the best home party businesses.