Of love and pearls: Chantal's dive

Reader Chantal invited me to tea to see her pearls; I could hardly wait for the day.

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:

That bracelet is Chantal's signature; she also wears a simply-set pair of luscious drops that Janis made at the same time.

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.


Kristien62 said…
How utterly beautiful. I guess there is nothing more appropriate I could say.
A wonderful story and fabulous pearls! I am fascinated by coloured pearls - so subtle and sublime.

I have a few pearl necklaces that were my mother's - nothing terribly valuable I'm sure but I must think about having them reworked and perhaps incorporating the pearl necklace that I was given by my grandparents when I was only 3 - it would be a wonderful family story.
Duchesse said…
Kristien: Wish you could see her pieces in person... thank you.

Margie: If you wish recommendations for who could do this in Toronto, e-mail me. Or perhaps you have someone in mind? We would love to see the new piece.
LauraH said…
Lovely story and those pearls....simply stunning.
SO beautiful - thanks for sharing!
Pearls right from the sea! How lovely that they were harvested in front of Chantel so she could choose one for her mother. The finished pieces are absolutely stunning!
Duchesse said…
hostess and Janice: I am grateful to Chantal for contacting me and permitting me to write her story!
It was so interesting seeing exactly where the pearls come from. The pearl necklace was beautiful. The pearl bracelet with the pearl and coral design was gorgeous. I love the colors of those pearls.
Duchesse said…
susie: I have had a few e-mails asking where one can get pearls like Chantal's keshis. I should say the photo at left was taken in a light box so the overtones really, really pop. In natural light you do see them, but they look between my shot witn the piece of coral and Janis Kerman's. And they are of tippy top quality, really special Tahitian keshis.

Check out the web site of Kamoka Pearls, who carry quite a few keshis, and of course my all time favourite, Kojima Pearl Company. If you want particular overtones such as aqua, pistachio or or rose, talk to those vendors. Kamoka have earned a reputation for being a sustainable operation and producers of fine pearls.

And sometime this spring I will have my own keshi project to show you.

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