Welcome back, dear readers! The Passage re-opens with a celebratory pearl post.
Over the summer, I visited Joanie, a wholesale pearl dealer in Montréal. She asked, "How did you develop your interest in pearls?"
Today, a visual version of my answer: the pearl-paved path from infatuation to enduring love, and several new pairs that might
appeal to you.
I told her how my beloved friend, Missi, the daughter of a fine jeweler in Honolulu, introduced me to their allure when I was about 35. She loaned me a pair of pearl chandeliers, and I felt a tug handing them back. The hook was set.
For my fortieth birthday, my parents invited me to chose a piece of jewelry. I visited the Toronto jeweler Beni Sung; in his tiny salon, I found a display of at least fifty pearls, displayed on hatpin-like individual stands. My choice was a pair of subtly mismatched South Sea mabé pearls with incredible lustre and iridescence. The price was around $1, 200, so I began at the higher end, an act that was hard to follow on my own dime.
Sung's knowledgeable, patient staff took time to explain the full range of pearl varieties; I barely knew fresh from saltwater. They also cast a spell, though the next pearls were a few years away.
Le Duc gave me gold and pearl earrings for an anniversary; these are classic 8mm round white Akoyas, showcased by the design by Artworks Gallery, Toronto.
Next, I bought a pair of Tahitian studs on eBay for around $350, but found they were too taupey for me and gave them to a friend. However, eBay 13mm Chinese freshwater baroque studs are among the best-value buys I've ever made—about $35—loads of lustre, smooth surfaces, and flashing pink and green overtones. When I told my jeweler, she about wept. (Sorry to say, the vendor has vanished.)
From Le Duc also, 16mm pink freshwaters, from Antoine Chapoutot:
I love iridescence and colour; pearls do not have to be round and smooth to show their spectacular hues. For example, here are a pair of Japanese Kasumi dangles made by Québec jeweler Celine Bouré of Kokass; the price was around $275.
What I'd buy now
I would avoid the too-safe and generic, and look, rather, for the natural essence of the pearl, in a good grown-woman size; depending on your build, I'd say from 8mm to way way up.
Adam Neeley "Fiore del Mare" 9.5 mm Tahitian pearls set in 14k; price, $1, 980.
Stunning and special
9.9 mm Sea of Cortez pearls with imperial topaz earrings, set in 14k; Kojima Company; price, $810.
Rare yet simple
Blue South Seas, don't see these often (and they are now sold out, so contact PoJ to request news of resupply): 10-11mm natural-colour blue South Sea baroques set in 14k yellow or white gold; price was $459 at Pearls of Joy.
eBay is still worth a browse, especially if you find a vendor with a return policy. Approach it like a yard sale where you might occasionally score a treasure. I recommend a Chinese seller, pearlunar, who is not the cheapest, but whose pearls are reliably as shown or even better. For example, these 9mm natural colour smoky lavender 'fat button' studs are set in 14k; price $70 with free shipping. He will also make a pair with larger posts and backs.