Thanks to his grandfather, pearls have always been a passion for Anil Maloo, founder and owner of Baggins, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer and wholesaler of fine quality pearls and pearl jewelry. While he grew up in India, Anil spent many enjoyable summers working for his grandfather’s pearl company in Japan, which was founded in 1958.
“To me, it was fascinating and glamorous,” he says. “I’d see people come in from all over the world to buy my grandfather’s pearls—from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States.” After completing school, Anil spent nearly three years in Japan learning Japanese and working for his grandfather. Then, he spent two years in Vietnam helping to set up a pearl farm and learning to appreciate the delicate, painstaking process of pearl cultivation. But finally, it came time to strike out on his own.
“I knew that this was the business I wanted to be in, so I came to the U.S. to attend GIA, where I became a Graduate Jeweler and Graduate Gemologist,” he says. “That’s when I fell in love with California and decided to start my own business there.”
That company was Baggins, which now boasts a large and varied inventory of every kind of pearl, from elegant Japanese Akoyas and dazzling South Seas to the magical glow of Tahitian pearls.
Family Pearl Farms
Anil is still deeply involved with the pearl farm he helped start up, as well as other farms in Vietnam operated by his family. Importing directly from these farms, Baggins is the primary supplier of Vietnamese Akoya pearls in the United States. The beautiful colors and affordable prices are just a few of the factors that have helped Vietnamese Akoyas gain rapid popularity in recent years. Another important factor is nacre thickness. “Our aim is to make only thick-coated pearls,” says Anil. “Our target is to have a minimum of 1mm nacre thickness. Already we have been able to cultivate 5-6mm pearls from a 2.5mm nucleus within one year of harvest.”
The Vietnamese farms also produce what Anil calls “baby Akoyas” in sizes as small as 2mm, which help to fill the demand for tiny pearls that Japan has not been able to address in years. These small sizes have found a wide market for Baggins, including multi-strand necklaces and bracelets, children’s jewelry, and add-a-pearl necklaces.
One of the most stunning and unique things coming out of Vietnam are the multi-color pearl strands. “As the nacre gets thicker,” Anil continues, “the color tends to become warmer, which we believe is the true color of Akoya pearls.” So Vietnam presents pearl lovers with a choice: Creamier-colored thick-skinned Vietnamese pearls versus more ghostly-white thin-skinned Chinese and Japanese pearls. Indeed, Baggins farm produces so many distinct hues—including silver, blues, golds and grays—that it can make many multi-colored strands.
All of Baggins’ pearls, Tahitian, South Sea and Akoya, are natural colored, without any treatments or dyes. “We don’t carry treated pearls because people want to be confident about their purchase,” he says. “Once you start carrying treated, people start doubting your ‘natural’ stock.”
Cultured Couture Jewelry
Baggins also boasts a creative, innovative line of pearl jewelry—mostly in 18K gold with some 14K gold pieces—including earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, rings, clasps, and charms. “I create most of the designs and the pearls are hand-selected by me and my staff to offer consistent quality,” says Anil. “We also get ideas from our own customers, who come up with different items that they specifically want.”
Baggins Jewelry Collection is unique in that its designs have a timeless look but blend seamlessly with today’s fashions. Baggins makes a concerted effort to have “something for everyone”, no matter what the customers taste. That idea carries over to their price points as well, with suggested retail prices starting as low as $60 for a pair of standard Akoya studs, up to $50,000 for the exquisite, one-of-a-kind 18.5mm+ Tahitian & South Sea Pearl, pave’ diamond earrings shown here.
Baggins also creates some of the most distinctive pearls strands available by combining a variety of shapes and colors. They have an extensive collection of unique strands that combine baroque and Keshi pearls for a fun look that is still classy enough to wear with more formal outfits.
Besides being combined with other pearls, Baggins Keshi pearls collection is impressive enough on its own. They carry both strands and loose Keshi, in South Sea and Tahitian. They boast one of, if not the largest, Tahitian Keshi collections in the US.
A key philosophy from his grandfather that Anil still holds true is educating customers about these lustrous, rare gems. “We put a lot of effort into long-term relationships with our customers and helping them to educate their sales staff and their customers. It’s not just about selling product.”
For Anil, the memories of working on an actual pearl farm with skilled technicians helps him communicate the intrinsic value of pearls to his customers. “Many people don’t realize the effort and time that it takes to create a pearl,” he says. “Once the nucleus is inserted, it’s like taking care of a baby—you have to feed it, let it grow, and be extremely careful. That makes it valuable.”
And traveling around the world every year—to Asia, Tahiti, and Australia, among other countries—means Anil continues to experience the excitement that he observed as a child, watching his grandfather work with customers from around the globe. “That’s where the passion comes in,” he says. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”