Say the name Sea Hunt and many of us baby boomers think of Lloyd Bridges in a late 1950s skin diving underwater action adventure TV series. This is just what Jack Lynch has in mind, and wants our memory cells to evoke every time we think of his business, Sea Hunt Pearls, in San Francisco, California. “Of course, I wanted something that sounded adventuresome and made you envision my search for beautiful pearls.”
Fourteen years ago, in 1995, Jack Lynch took that name and opened Sea Hunt Pearls. But Jack had already been in the pearl business a good decade prior to this.
Although a native New Jersey boy, Lynch calls San Francisco home. “I got started in the pearl business some 25 years ago,” says Lynch, but it wasn’t as if he had just donned his SCUBA gear and jumped right in. As he recalled, he spent his 20s as a bartender in San Francisco. That was where he learned his gift for dealing with people and thinking on his feet. At the end of his 20’s Jack decided to seek out a career with a bigger future. “I used to fill in at a jewelry store, for a friend of mine at Union Street Goldsmith, along with some other jewelry designers. I’d see these people coming through who were gemstone dealers and the thought of doing that really appealed to me. I would get to travel, work with creative people, and handle beautiful items. Since I was never a corporate sort of person, the thought of being my own man appealed to me.”
Lynch knew that getting his Graduate Gemologist diploma would be the best way to show people in the business that he was serious, and that he wanted to be a part of the gem and jewelry industry. He graduated from GIA New York in 1985.
Jack returned to San Francisco. The designers he briefly worked with always had a strong affinity to pearls and it opened up his eyes to the range of possibilities. So it makes perfect sense that Jack’s first full time job out of GIA was working, and eventually managing, a pearl company in San Francisco. But there came a point when Lynch needed to set off on his own course and test his mettle.
“When I started in 1995, I had a very small nest egg to begin my business, and so I got on the Chinese Freshwater cultured pearl wagon very early in the game. It was a good way for me to have inventory without having deep pockets. This is a wave I have ridden ever since.” Lynch branched out with some Akoya, and a finished line of freshwater simple strands, and bracelets. He moved into Tahitian and South Seas cultured pearls when he had the finances to expand his inventory.
“I do travel overseas 3 or 4 times a year, but I also work very closely with my suppliers year round.” Lynch has only a handful of suppliers. “Instead of working with numerous ones, I work with a select few. In this way, we’re more important to one another, and I’m able to get exceptional merchandise throughout the year.” He does go on buying trips to China, Hong Kong, and Japan. “While there I try and develop new product with them, and see what fresh uses of pearls we can come up with.”
“I am always looking for new suppliers and I always keep my eyes out for something unique,” says Lynch, “But for the most part, I end up working with the many of the same people I’ve had long term relations. Business must be handled in a way that is mutually beneficial if it is to succeed. Of course, some people fall off, and I pick up others, but there are some key allies that are very important to my success. With these strong relationships, I am guaranteed first crack at unusual and hard to source pearls at fair prices.”
And it’s that long time relationship that allows him to hand select, hi-grade every bit of inventory he carries, to get exactly what he believes is right for his clients. His eye for color, for mixing and matching, for creating the next new look, the next fashion statement, is constantly on the mark. “I always try to lead in with new uses of pearls, “says Lynch. He makes up new combinations of color, new combinations of various types of pearls, and with an eye for unique pearls, “pearls with dimension to them,” says Lynch. “My reputation is for introducing innovative pieces and new entries into the pearl market – in freshwater goods especially.” Now Jack doesn’t confine himself or his customers to just Chinese freshwater cultured pearls. “I carry a bit of everything, from Chinese freshwaters, to Akoyas, to Tahitian and South Seas.” And it’s not just about his incredibly deep selection that makes him a popular stop at gem and jewelry trade shows. “My price points begin at $2 or $3 and go as high as $15,000 to $20,000. But even at $2 or $3 dollars, the pearls I have will be of fine quality.”
Lynch’s sensitivity shows with not only his choice in pearls, but also with his customer awareness. “I try to buy and create combinations with designers in mind. And I’ve done really well with people who are just starting out. The younger designers can always find something from me to work with. I can help grow them and stretch them by introducing them to new and unique possibilities… and then stepping them up to more expensive things when they’re ready. I understand what it’s like to start out in business without a lot of money. The same philosophy of business needing to be mutually beneficial applies to my dealings with all my customers. I feel truly fortunate to have found a career that I enjoy so much and that has brought me so many friends… it rarely feels like work. My Memberships in the Cultured Pearl Association and The American Gem Trade Association have also proved invaluable in business.”
Sea Hunt manages to stay current and fresh in inventory and design, even in this especially tough economy, thanks in part to the Chinese freshwater cultured pearl market. “In general, the jewelry trade has not been buying large expensive items,” says Lynch. And it shows in what Lynch is famous for; that inventory with a sense of unique and modern style, Jack’s special attention to quality, color, and design, with exceptionally attractive pricing, and Sea Hunt’s depth and great selections others tend not to carry, or carry as much.
And while most pieces sold in the past 6 months may have been at lower price points, at the same time, Lynch is selling through on his more expensive items. “I think that people who have money still want to buy something beautiful, but they need to buy something that’s a little bit more bespoke… a bit quieter. And pearls are perfect for that understated elegance.” Understated elegance, from Jack Lynch and Sea Hunt Pearls.
The crew of Sea Hunt Pearls Left to Right: Debra Kapp, Valerie Taylor, Jack, Helene Auerbach, Francois Longere & Denise Walters
Sea Hunt Pearls
703 Market Street, Suite #1501
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 543-7900 phone
(415) 543-7991 fax