Our Founder


Unlike the story of many e-commerce sites, American Pearl traces its roots to an earlier time before the Digital Age changed our lives. Long before the first PC, cell phone or Internet router was built, Charlie Bakhash (recently featured in FORBES ) founded American Pearl & General Company in 1950. That year he opened a tiny storefront in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

As a boy, Charlie lived in Japan with his family. Charlie's mother was always fascinated with the beauty and history of pearls. To satisfy her curiosity, Charlie's mother sent him to the pearl farms of Japan to acquire pearls for her own personal use. Eager to please his mother, Charlie quickly learned about pearl quality and value from the pearl farmers. In the process, he discovered the beauty and mystical qualities of this rare gem and in that instant fell in love with pearls. Charlie proudly returned home with the finest quality pearls his mother had ever seen. Charlie's mother was overjoyed as the pearls he unveiled were finer and more beautiful than she hoped for. As she examined her pearls she noticed Charlie speaking passionately about their qualities and perfection. What started as an errand for a family member turned into a lifelong pursuit. Charlie found his calling. His mother realized her son's passion and from that moment on encouraged him to pursue his dream as a pearl dealer.

Charlie moved to Kobe, Japan in 1952 so he could position himself right at the source: Japan was and still is the largest producer of high-grade pearls in the world. There Charlie and his family made their home for a quarter century, building an unrivalled international network of contacts and a time-honored reputation of trust and integrity. Today Charlie's networking legacy is a key reason we are able to operate with the huge patchwork of inside sources and large economy of scale that enable us to import at such drastically reduced prices -- a savings we happily pass on to our many loyal customers.

Over the ensuing decades Charlie traveled tirelessly to the other pearl-producing hot spots of the globe -- exotic locales like Tahiti, Indonesia, China, and Australia -- even as he became a familiar face in just about every tiny fishing village tucked away along Japan's vast coastlines. For many years Charlie lived a fascinating double life, acting as agent and negotiator on the source end while serving as pearly ambassador to the world's well-to-do on the sales end. You might easily have found him sandal-clad in a fishing town on one of the world's most beautiful and remote beaches one week, and travelling in a three-piece suit and regal splendor on the private jet of an Arabian king the next. His serene, peaceful demeanor seemed somehow just the part for both roles.

A Quote from Charlie Bakhash, the founder of American Pearl.

As the business grew, Charlie became an international stanchion of the pearl trade, widely regarded as perhaps the most reliable and honest source of pearls anywhere in the world. Over the years, more than one million high-grade pearl strands have passed through Charlie's trusted hands.

He has personally sold pearls to a dizzying array of dignitaries, luminaries, diplomats and heads of state. Many of the pearls he has supplied to the world's top jewelers have found their way onto the graceful necks of some of the world's most famous celebrities and even American first ladies.

Eventually relocating back to America, Charlie continued to manage the ever-growing importing business from New York City. Business at the Manhattan discount wholesale store continued to grow steadily as his happy customers resoundingly recommended him to friends and colleagues. Charlie always took very seriously what he regarded as his moral obligation not only to give his customers a fair deal, but to make sure they felt confident and happy with their important purchase.



There's a lot more to pearl quality than many people realize, but Charlie's famous advice was always as simple as it was wise: you don't buy pearls every day, so only buy the roundest, most lustrous, highest grade pearls, for only they will return the most pleasure over the years -- while appreciating most in value. Through his careful and painstaking attention to the customers' needs on a sale-by-sale basis, Charlie and the staff he personally trained built a reputation of respect and trust throughout Manhattan's cosmopolitan upper-class communities. Charlie is now something of a quiet legend. His New York discount store became as famous among his customers as he himself did among the world's major jewelers: the name "Charlie" still conjures a familiar and friendly face to many large pearl dealers.



Today American Pearl & General Company is one of the oldest, largest and most reputable pearl importers serving North America, with sales in the millions. We are a long-standing member of The Jewelers Vigilance Committee and we still devote Charlie's attention and concern for the customer to every sale. That level of service has been duly recognized: on the basis of price, quality, and reputability, our Manhattan store is listed in New York Bargain Finders as the Number One source for pearls in New York City.

Charlie can still be found relaxing in his favorite Japanese robe.

His son Eddie took the reins of the family business in 1990, armed with the wisdom and experience that had been meticulously passed on to him by his father. It was Eddie who brought American Pearl & General Company into the Information Age in launching AmericanPearl.com, Inc. It looks like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The site has already been well-received and, as the testimonials attest, a growing body of happy customers are echoing the words of yesteryear, thanking Eddie for his attention and trustworthiness as did his father's customers before him. Alas, the slick American Pearl interface doesn't quite convey the cramped charm of Charlie's first tiny storefront on the streets of 1950s New York. But if you listen hard as you hit our home page, you just might hear that tiny bell twinkle as you walk in, just as it did half a century ago.


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