Pearls: Three ways to restyle

Regular readers know that one of my 'things' is (all together now): Rehab your pearls!

Take 'em apart if they're too bland, too girlish,
or just if you'd enjoy a change.

Example #1 shows why I'm devoted to Pam Chandler and Don Collins of Artworks by Collins and Chandler Gallery (aka "Pam and Don") in Toronto.

These starte
d life as a 48-inch strand of lavender-to-pink 9mm ovals. Nice, but not interesting on their own. Pam styled them as bib, accented with big nuggets of aquamarine, amethyst, and Bali silver beads. People have offered to buy them off my neck.

Example #2 (middle): an 18-inch strand of keshis I bought on eBay for about $60 because of their shimmering orient. They arrived strung with one of those dreadful "gold" filigree clasps, but madly iridescent.

I sent them to Rosalind Wolchok, a Winnipeg-based designer I've known for years through craft shows. Rosalind makes her own findings and beads; she added a handmade silver clasp, silver circles (centre of bottom of strand) and one tiny amethyst bead (just above the centre on the right) that highlights the intense glow.

Finally, if your strand's mysteriously become a little tight, turn it into a wrapped bracelet (below). This one's from Rosalind's site; she can create a similar look with your pearls.

Freshwater pearls are nearly solid nacre, so last a lifetime and more with a little care.

I recently took a pearl-grading course, along with about 40 jewelers and one other civilian. When shown the current crop of big, gorgeous freshwaters in delicious natural colours, one jeweler asked, "Why would people buy saltwater pearls any more?" The instructor just shrugged.

You can buy a lavishly lustrous strand for the price of a pair of good shoes! Don't walk away from a beautiful strand that is not strung to your liking, just have it restyled by someone whose work you love.


Susan B said…
Last year, I was amazed to discover that a strand of luminous, perfectly round pearls I was admiring were freshwater. Growing up, freshwater pearls were always those small, irregularly-shaped beads. I'm in love with an 88" strand at Iridesse right now, but am really inspired by what you've done with these. So much more interesting!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: I love long ropes, so versatile! I looked at this one; the only thing I'd suggest is changing the clasp- not necessarily more costly, rather,an interesting one that you could move to the front or side to show. If you have old rings you might have the stone set in a clasp.
Anonymous said…
Although I don't remember reading anything on your blog regarding the ethics of fashion, I'm sure it is a subject you would be interested in. Therefore I feel this might be an appropriate place to mention that almost all of the pearls we buy today are produced in China. This I learned from a very detailed documentary I saw this year in Switzerland. The programme gave no opinion but showed the conditions that workers are forced to live and work in, miles away from their families for months if not years at a time. These days you would never get such information from the BBC as China has such a hold over the West.

Of course I still love my pearls which I've had for about six years, but I would now think twice before buying any more.

deja - do you get the same type of luminosity with freshwater, or variation of colour?
Anonymous said…
Regarding clasps, I use a pair of thick hooped gold earrings as a clasp for my multistranded freshwater pearls. Sounds strange but it really works.
Anonymous said…
Sorry, another quick thought. In the summer I twist my coral necklace around my pearls to give a summery Mediterranean look. But I would only do this with the freshwater set, my 10mm are far too precious and I'm scared they would get scratched.
Susan B said…
duchesse - hmm, I don't have much "real" jewelry with actual stones, but I do have some semi-precious citrines and peridot in various earrings that might be interesting.

gp - I'm not educated enough about pearls to be able to make that call. I have one strand of (tiny, graduated) real saltwater pearls inherited from my grandmother that probably aren't the highest quality, but the freshwater strands I looked at had lovely, smooth, glowing nacre. A step up from my fun fakes, anyway.
Anonymous said…
deja - they sound lovely. My advice to you would be to try them on your skin tone before deciding. Personally I cannot wear white unless I'm really tanned, my pearls have a slightly pinkish golden hue which is much more flattering to my olive skin. Also, personally I would not have coloured stones set in the clasp as this may limit the colours of your clothes. My long pearls have two identical gold clasps (the same size and shape as the pearls) so that I can vary the length of the string, sometimes wearing only a third of the string, sometimes wearing the whole length wrapped around two or three times.

I have had experience of having my pearls restrung in various countries in Europe and I would say that London is still the best place as you can actually choose the size of the knot you want. I like big knots as it stops the pearls touching and the knots don't wear down as quickly between restringings.

I'm learning in my middle age that owning luxury items requires not only an initial high expense but also costly ongoing maintenance. But it's all worth it for a decent string of pearls!
Anonymous said…
duchesse - whilst on a the subject of jewellery I must tell you about my favourite jewellery designer - Gilbert Albert. You can find his website through google. He is based in Geneva, Switzerland and I've yet to buy a piece from him. I'm aiming to treat myself when I finish the PhD next September!

Anyway I'm sure you'll like his work.
Duchesse said…
GP: The conditions for mining coloured stones and precious metals are also very poor in locations. One solution is to buy pearls from a dealer who owns a farm and can tell you about the conditions. In the LA area, (for Pseu) one would be Jeremy Shepard, owner of Pearls of Paradise; he also has a web site. He is incredibly knowledgable, has some interesting pearls (including exotic naturals and abalone pearls and is very service oriented. Pseu, he is not showing long strands on the site but could easily make one up.

Usual advice is to not let anything ouch your pearls but pearls (and even they can scratch one another) but I will often wear mine with a 22k chain, life is short.

re clasp: I set one with a ruby and small diamond; for another, I had jeweler make a clasp of a "baroque pearl" in gold, for another I used a Balinese clasp in 22k I bought on eBay.
materfamilias said…
The comment I tried to leave got swallowed somehow -- this is another inspiring pearl post -- with gorgeous examples of your own jewelry. Thanks to you, I'm now wearing my own strands a bit more often, and recently even tried wearing two (slightly different lengths) together -- on their own, they're a bit tame, but together I thought they packed more punch. One is large, irregular freshwater pearls punctuated with lapis beads and I wasn't sure they would blend with the more classical strand, but it seemed to work, selon moi.
Duchesse said…
GP: The Gilbert Albert pearl pieces on his site are wondrous; what a celebration for your upcoming achievement! Do tell us what you choose.

materfamilias: I see it in my mind's eye! Lapis is such a beautiful stone for your colouring.
Anonymous said…
I've seen Getty archives photos of Isabella Rossellini wearing ropes and ropes of pearls like Coco Chanel used to in her prime, around 1930s. I'm beginning to think that the saying 'you cannot be too rich or too thin' should be finished off with '...or wear too many pearls'.

With regard to Gilbert Albert, I have a year to save up as the PhD finishes in Sept 2009. I'll probably go for a pair of earrings as that is what is lacking in my jewellery box. Those diamonds are twinkling away at me from the end of the dark tunnel I'm plodding through!

duchesse - this has been a great post. Even just thinking and writing about pearls lifts the spirits - wearing them is heaven!

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