Following our tradition, the Passage reopens with a pearl post. Because I've recently received inquiries about what to do with 'not quite you' pearls, I've dressed the windows in reno ideas.
By far my most frequent inquiry concerns Mom's or your own necklace of 5mm-6mm akoyas, the classic wedding strand, now too short and small. Why not restyle, provided Mom won't pitch a fit?
Not all the pearls may be salvageable; body oil, cosmetics and especially perfume may have degraded the pearl's surface.
Left: Pick the best five or six pearls and combine them with beads; this example from Jan Logan shows white freshwaters combined with lagoon-blue Amazonite rounds and ovals, a graceful way to incorporate sentimental pearls into a new piece. (Amazonite is very reasonably priced; this piece is $AU 585).
Centre: Combine the pearls with new freshwaters and the more contemporary wire-wrapping. Example: Kojima Company's "Winter Blossom" necklace, which combines not only sizes but varieties and colours. This style is also a good solution if the pearls were originally a graduated strand.
Right: Here's an idea for the woman who finds a necklace too heavy, or prefers a casual piece. The example is Mallory Marks pearl collage necklace: sapphire beads—some tumbled, one faceted—with one Tahitian 11mm pearl (but you could use any pearl variety), and several small pearls; 18k chain.
Seed or rice pearls
Another reader wrote, "I have my mother-in-law's torsade of seed pearls, bought on a 1981 cruise. They are not 'me' at all... but it seems a shame to discard them."
You can still find such pieces still sold by mainstream jewellers, and they do carry a retro whiff. But tiny, lustrous seed pearls have a distinct charm, and if good quality, can live again in a hipper new design.
Left, the original cruise souvenir; right, the seed pearls treated as 'chain', with baroque Tahitians added. The piece shown showcases 8.5 mm Tahitians, from West Main Pearls.
"Oh! You shouldn't have!"
Ah, this is a delicate matter—and I would take the reno road only if an exchange is not possible. (But I would not wear unflattering pearls because you did not want to have the conversation.)
Assuming these are natural coloured gold South Seas, that's a costly misstep. Though you can't dye pearls like a pair of shoes, you can tweak their effect through artful composition, by breaking up that swath of gold with other coloured materials.
Two takes on restyling gold pearls: left, some of the golds mixed with Tahitian baroque and keshis, example from WestMain Pearls. Grey leavens the 'goldiness' and varied shapes make the necklace less formal.
Right, a multistrand necklace of brown and white crystals, white pearls, gold (dyed) pearls, and gold seed beads by NewJulianasCreations.The cost for adding crystal strands would be modest, and I would get top grade glowy freshwater whites for the contrast colour.
Where to get more pearls?
You can consult a good jeweller, or look yourself among these or similar web-based vendors. Below, examples of the company's goods that I might use in the renos above.
Ehret Design Gallery
Pearl dealer Carolyn Ehret sells on eBay, but the cautions of buying on eBay do not pertain to her store, which specializes in high-quality pearls and gemstones. When mixing the classic akoyas into a wire-wrap, five circled Tahitians that flash multi-colours would be one of the varieties to add; the lot shown is about $US 35. Also great for findings such as gold spacers.
Kojima Pearl Company
Kojima carry a selection of unusual pearls from singles to lots of five or so, and you can contact them for larger lots, or a mix. For those gold South Seas, I'd use these dyed grey keshi (just over $100)... and maybe scatter in a few rondelle beads for fun.
This eBay seller, from whom I have not bought pearls, but where I routinely look, has 100% positive feedback. You can also find gemstone beads, like these tanzanite rondelles, which would look terrific in that akoya "collage" restyle.
Framed, with love
If your pearls are sentimental, but you would never wear them, consider framing! This example is from LoveLightSparkles on Etsy, but you could play with your own design. Visit a craft store to buy a shadowbox, mount the necklace with pushpins, perhaps against a backdrop of an old photo or striking patterned paper, and you'll have a gracious memento.