Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — Tasaki Shinju Co. Ltd., a major pearl manufacturer based in Kobe, Japan, has acquired pearl wholesaler D’Elia & Son Inc. as an entry into the American market.
The Japanese company has absorbed the acquired operation into the newly formed D’Elia & Tasaki Co. Ltd. to wholesale Tasaki Shinju pearls in the U.S. through offices here. D’Elia & Son’s existing network of retailers will provide the framework of distribution for the new company.
Tasaki Shinju, which was established in 1954, is the largest pearl manufacturer in the world, claimed its chairman and chief executive officer, Shansaku Tasaki, interviewed here through a translator. The firm, which posted sales of about $450 million in 1996, operates 70 stores in Asia and wholesales pearls and pearl jewelry in Taiwan, China, Japan and Europe, he said.
It recently opened a pearl processing plant in Shanghai, and also distributes diamond and other precious stone jewelry, operating a diamond polishing factory in Israel.
Pearls in the company’s assortment include South Sea, Akoya, freshwater and Mabe.
Devin McNow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center in New York, said the entry of Tasaki Shinju could have a beneficial effect on the U.S. pearl business. Although Tasaki Shinju has yet to reveal its marketing program, it could “raise consumer demand for all pearl products significantly,” he said.
Mikimoto is currently the single largest distributor of pearls in the U.S. Koichi Takahashi, senior vice president of Mikimoto America, agreed with McNow’s assessment of Tasaki Shinju’s move.
“They are the second direct source from Japan, and I think that will grow the industry in the U.S.,” he said.
Asked if he felt the threat of competition from the new company, Takahashi answered, “Yes and no.”
“They will compete with us in the area that we are marketing, and they won’t compete with us in areas we are not marketing,” he said, explaining that Tasaki Shinju carries a broad range of low-to-high-end pearls, whereas Mikimoto caters exclusively to the high end.
The executive lineup at D’Elia & Tasaki Co. includes Shunsaku Tasaki as chairman, while Minoru Matsunaga, executive vice president of the parent company, will be relocated to New York to become vice chairman and chief executive officer. Terry D’Elia, formerly president of D’Elia & Son, will be president and chief operating officer.
Tasaki said it has not yet been decided if pearl products will be distributed in the U.S. under the company’s name or as private label.
“We have to discuss that with the individual retailers,” Tasaki said.
Tasaki said the company also hopes to open a U.S. store in the next couple of years.