The sub-zero afternoon was brightened by her warm greeting. I immediately liked this ebullient brunette—and not only for her passion for pearls.
Chantal and her partner spend half the year on their sailboat; their 2015-2016 destination was French Polynesia. Chantal's eighty-four year old mother learned to use GPS, Skype and other applications to track their progress. She had one request, that Chantal bring her a single Tahitian pearl.
Near the end of their stay, still pearl-less, the couple met owners of a pearl farm in the Gambier Islands. The Sichoix family were about to harvest their oysters from a lagoon near the coral-reef island of Tarauru Roa. When they heard of Chantal's mother's wish, they graciously invited Chantal and her partner to join their first day's harvest.
Chantal, an experienced diver, was invited to pull her treasure up from water so clear that, as she said, "You see your hand in the water, without even noticing water is there".
At this stage in the culturing process, the oysters rest secured in wire baskets at about three meters below the surface. She took a deep breath to free-dive down. Chantal descended to the baskets, but lifting them was beyond her breath capacity. She surfaced for help, but how many women can say they first saw their pearl in the lagoon?
At left, Erick Sichoix and Chantal open the big black-lipped oysters; after years of work and patience, farmers can expect about half the yield will contain a pearl. At upper right, the oysters in their wire crates, and bottom right, Erick points out the sac in which the pearl has matured.
An array of the Sichoix's fancy-coloured Tahitians on the half-shell, showing their magnificent hues:
She selected the perfect pearl for her mother, and had it made into an elegant pendant at Flamme en rose, the Montréal boutique of jewellers Michèle Côte and Audrée Michaud.
Chantal also returned with Tahitian keshis, the all-nacre, nuggety pearls. She said, "I had this piece of white coral, like a sculpture, and I always loved its form. I thought of doing something with this shape."
She took that coral (below, left) and the keshis to renowned jeweller Janis Kerman, who created a silver cuff that evokes a pearl-studded reef.
Below, the bracelet in process, with each pearl finding its place in the 'reef':
The finished bracelet: the shot at left shows the original white coral inspiration; at right, Janis Kerman's photo, which shows how the keshis flash rose, teal and aubergine overtones:
And so, a Valentine in the many hues of love: a woman's voyage with l'amour de sa vie; a daughter's promise fulfilled from the heart, and friends' kindness and generosity. As a bonus: those glowing pearls, to remind her of all she truly treasures.
For local inquiries about Sichoix pearls, please send me an e-mail.