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Pearly Whites: LED Lighting in a Pearl Factory

The Lighting Doctor rethinks his opinion cool LED lighting color temperatures while visiting a pearl factory in Vietnam, where everything sparkled. 

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Pearls in a shell
The Lighting Doctor takes on the cool LED lighting in a pearl factory.

Once again, I found myself lucky enough to be visiting other countries and studying the people and their cultures. It’s always interesting to see how LED lighting is being integrated into commercial and residential settings outside of the United States.

A little while back I wrote about some of my experiences in Japan. For me, the integration of LEDs there was very refined. It was heartening to see the use of warmer color temperatures and high CRIs (Color Rendering Index) in so many of the hotels, shops and museums. 

Vietnam was different. There are a lot of street vendors. The use of LEDs was more based on cost, I believe. The color temperatures were much cooler, and the CRIs were much lower. The hotels, museums and retail stores were uneven in their selection of color temperatures and CRIs.

One place that fascinated me, though, was a pearl factory. The lighting was all done with 5000° Kelvin in a high CRI. At first I didn’t really understand. It didn’t feel inviting, but upon entering the space, you could see how the lighting was specifically chosen to highlight the pearl jewelry that was on display.  Everything sparkled. Everything looked important and valuable. It was easy to get swept up in the excitement.
The salespeople equaled the number of shoppers. If more people came in from a tour then suddenly there were more sellers on the floor, ready to be of assistance in any language you happen to be speaking.

Pearl Factory, Randall Whitehead, The Lighting Doctor

As you can see from this image, the space is lit with both directional LED track lighting, as well as recessed lighting and cove lighting. All the jewelry had a luster that would have seemed dull under a warmer color temperature. It reminded me of automobile showrooms, where they used to light all the cars with bright white metal halide sources to make the cars glisten.


Pearl Factory, Randall Whitehead, The Lighting Doctor

A closer look at some of the ceiling detail shows the cove lighting in combination with the LED recessed downlights. The cove lighting did add some ambient light, so when people are looking at themselves in the mirrors, it was pretty complementary, albeit in a frosty blue-white hue.

Pearl Factory, Randall Whitehead, The Lighting Doctor

A close-up of the track fixture shows that they are basic sockets with LED lamps screwed into them. Normally, I would say that they were glaring, but somehow they added to the spectral pizzazz of the space.

Pearl Factory, Randall Whitehead, The Lighting Doctor

A wide shot of the sales floor shows the hundreds of light fixtures in the ceiling. All of the sales personnel wore bright blue uniforms. The color really popped under the 5000° kelvin color temperature. It made them easy to spot if you had a question about a particular item in one of the 3000 display cases.

Pearl Factory, Randall Whitehead, The Lighting Doctor

One of the things that I thought was really quite amazing was that when you bought a piece of jewelry there was an LED light integrated into the box, so that when you opened it your purchase continue to sparkle along after you left the store.

Did I buy anything? No, but everyone else who was there with me did.


All photos courtesy of Randall Whitehead, the Lighting Doctor.

Randall Whitehead headshot

Randall Whitehead is an educator and author on the subject of lighting design. His work has been featured in many magazines, including Architectural Digest, Home & Garden and Esquire. He has appeared as a guest expert on HGTV, Discovery, CNN and Martha Stewart Living Radio.

His Latest book Beautiful Light outlines how to create successful and subtly beautiful LED lighting designs for homes and gardens. Available through Amazon and Rutledge Books.

You can see his entertaining 1-minute instructional videos at furniturelightingdecor.com. And you can follow him on Instagram:  @randall.whitehead


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