On a recent trip to my home town and surrounding area in Northern Michigan, we spent time in the village of Harbor Springs, an historic resort community. It is there that the sliver of peninsula known as Harbor Point, accessible only by the association's horse-drawn carriage, provides a summer retreat for descendants of the old industrial fortunes who built large, gracious "cottages". Adjacent enclaves like Roaring Brook and Wequetonsing contain similar wicker-filled homes, built before the automobile.
A handful of Harbor Springs shops cater to such residents, whose idea of roughing it may be taking but one cashmere throw on a sunset sail.
It is in such a setting that we found a tiny, elegant boutique devoted to pearls, Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls. We stopped by on a quiet September afternoon, warmly welcomed by "Dilly" Blair Kirby herself. She opened her shop in Harbor Springs knowing that pearls will carry a woman from resort to city, and also shares one of my convictions: they make any woman more beautiful.
She presents pearls priced from barely three figures to the stratosphere, displayed by theme or mood, each grouping vying with the other for one's desire. It felt as if a nacreous white cloud had rained pearl treasures on a tiny hamlet.
If Harbor Springs is not on your itinerary, drop by her online shop, WestMainPearls.com. WestMain, a subsidiary of Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls, features less-costly but still alluring pieces from her trove of every pearl variety.
I didn't add to my collection—not for lack of desire, but for the simple reason of not being able to decide, and of course, there is this thing called a budget. I know I'd delight in a 27-inch necklace of mixed keshis and South Seas (price, $1,700; all prices in $US):
The casual-chic pearls I prefer are stocked on WestMain's site in a range of styles from sleek to ornate. This smart pair of carved mother-of-pearl and freshwater pearl dangles is $195.
She offers an homage via the charming, classic pearl flower brooch, (price, $295), as well as edgy styles like a modern abalone piece by Sally Bass (price, $325) that can also be worn as a pendant.
Pearl rings are a marvelous choice, allowing you to see and enjoy what you're wearing. A cultured 6mm Akoya pearl and diamond-accented cuff ring set in 14k rose gold (price $425) is everyday-wearable yet striking.
Should that happen, you've found a remarkable refuge from the mass-market world, whether your discovery is modest or luxurious. And if pearls are present, double luck!