Report highlights a bright future for Fiji mother-of-pearl jewellery and handicrafts
Friday, 29 August 2014 16:05

PARDI researcher, University of Adelaide Research Associate, Theo Simos, has released an update report outlining how research, artistry and training in Fiji is unlocking the region’s mother-of-pearl (MOP) jewellery and handicraft industry’s income potential and may provide new employment opportunities in the region.

The project, Assessing potential for developing the MOP handicraft sector in Fiji: Empowering women’s’ groups and livelihood development in Fiji is led by the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

In 2013, the PARDI team (led by James Cook University’s Professor Paul Southgate and Theo Simos) identified an annual market value of around F$4 million for Fiji’s MOP handicrafts and pearl sector of which only around 10% is met by local production. This highlights significant import replacement potential for Fiji.

Mr Simos’ recent report documented progress being made in empowering and broadening the scope of Fiji’s MOP industry through a series of continuous workshops on MOP jewellery product development that started in January 2014. According to Mr Simos, the PARDI team have worked closely with The Ba Womens Forum and the local Ba Town Council to produce jewellery products unique to Fiji.

“We engaged Marie Erl (contemporary and traditional and contemporary jewellery designer and trainer from Auckland New Zealand), with support from Robert Kennedy (Fiji-based fashion designer, and Tappoo handicrafts buyer/retailer since 1941) to help create a portfolio of prototype designs,” said Mr Simos.

“Our women’s’ group have produced 20 variations of fashion wear items and 14 variations of everyday wear items. The Ba Women’s Forum, particularly through the leadership of Dr Maria Doton, has been integral in facilitating the establishment of the workshop training program.

“This has provided an excellent opportunity to empower mature-age women who were unemployed. Trainees have achieved a basic level of capability, and will soon participate in further training.”

The new MOP jewellery integrates traditional elements and modern artistry with dominant use of the MOP shell. Products are made from local materials to enhance ’Fiji-made’ accreditation.

“The uniqueness and quality of these products position them in the premium value of +FJ$100 for the fashion range and $FJ50 for everyday wear,” said Mr Simos.

The Fijian Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty Alleviation and the Ministry of Industry and Trade and have shown strong support for the project and Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have attended the recent jewellery-making trainee graduations. “The presence of Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to these events has attracted a broad press interest with numerous high-profile stories about the group,” said Mr Simos.

Looking ahead, the PARDI project will provide trainees with support on product quality and finishing improvements to achieve ‘retail ready’ items. They will also be assisted on packaging, labelling and pricing for market testing of the products.

“Our goal is to equip these trainees, and the Ba Women’s Forum, with the confidence to consider making MOP jewellery and other handicraft products towards a long-term and sustainable venture,” said Mr Simos.


Picture Captions:

1) A trainee proudly displays a finished product.

2) Models recently paraded the new fashioware range at the Fiji Fashion week event at the Sofitel Hotel, Denarau Fiji on Saturday 30 August 2014.

Links for further information:

The ACIAR/PARDI handicrafts project is part of a suite of pearl projects led by James Cook University. More information can be found in Fisheries Profiles 2013. Associated blogs, stories and YouTube links are listed below.

PARDI news article on mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft and jewellery training in Fiji
ACIAR blog on opening up industry opportunities:

PARDI YouTube supporting the role of Pacific women:


PARDI communications

Julie Lloyd, M: +0415 799 890

PARDI researcher

Theo Simos, E: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it