The Philippines has always been a great source of pearls; especially the highly prized south sea pearls. One of the most famous markets that manila tourists frequently visit is the Greenhills pearl market.
There are a variety of pearls in the market, most of which are imported freshwater pearls from China, which have been treated and dyed to trendy and desirable colors. If you are into crafts, or making your own semi-precious jewelry, this is the place to be.
There are also an abundance of commercial-grade south sea pearls in glass displays. For an untrained eye, the treatments are not obvious, but some pearls have been bleached or dyed to get perfectly matched white, silver, or gold strands. You can ask the vendor for gem grade pearls, which command a high price. Some even go up to about $500 per piece. They are usually stored in their vaults or not on display.
There are sellers that can be trusted, I went to one shop that had a great selection of gem grade pearls which she claims to have come from Mindanao. In another shop, there are gem grade pearls that have deep gold colors, but there were treatments applied to the pearl. I noticed a thin clear lacquer coating to make the pearl perfectly round and some dye concentrations on the surface pits of the pearl.
You can find treasures in this market for sure; , but it would be good to come with a knowledge of what a dyed or treated pearls look like. That said, if you just want trendy pieces, this is the market to go to and find a bargain.
Photo grabbed from: