Pearl reno: Alice in (Tahitian) Wonderland

Last spring, I promised to show you my friend Alice's pearl reno, which was inspired by Leslie's auburn rope. When she showed me her classic Tahitians, I suggested she restyle them in a similar way, as a casual, contemporary rope.

Today in the window, a day and night change from strand she's holding in the photo. Like an Armani skirt suit, they were  gorgeous, but no longer fit into Alice's life. 

Alice has embraced her recent retirement, from enrolling in history courses to making her own spectacular pastries. (I should know, I sampled four at one sitting.) Look at her photo and you can see how much fun she is! And that was at breakfast.  

Alice sent them to Sarah Canizzaro at Kojima Company, with a few instructions: greys, not pink or peach, in the mix, and some of the irregular crystal beads she saw in Leslie's. In a few weeks, she saw photos of version #1 on the bead board:

The necklace was loosening up, but it read as monochromatic and dark, elegant in a kind of gothy way. I could see this on someone, but not Alice. She asked Sarah to make it lighter.

Version #2: Sarah lit the Tahitians (which have strong cherry overtones) with dove grey keshis and white baroque akoyas—and fired up the funk with several big CFW gold baroques and an 18k disc:

Alice said, "Close, but not that disc, though I get the things-in-threes rule." She asked for another gold pearl instead, which Sarah added, but also slipped in a surprise: a crazy-cool huge baroque Tahitian inset with a faceted yellow sapphire. Alice asked only to move that baby toward the front, because if you've got it...

Here's the final version:

And on a thrilled Alice: banker goes babe!

1. When you give directions to a designer, you may not know the possibilities—so stay open to possibilities you might not have know about.

Count yourself lucky if working with a designer (like Sarah) who said, after the first draft, "Hmmm; if you like it, I will make it—but I think we should try a few other options." The strong cherry overtones in the Tahitians play well only with certain hues.

The project took nearly four months; permission for the artist time to work thoughtfully on your project is invaluable.

2.  Examine every detail: the pearls, other materials, the colour of the metal or stringing material, the clasp. Imagine wearing it.

If there's something you don't like, say so. Alice asked me what I thought about the 18k disc; I liked it but she had to, it's her necklace. Once you feel your heart rate rise, relax and trust your instinct.

3. Spend where it counts, like that sapphire-set Tahitian. Alice's project cost under four figures, about the same as Leslie's. She told me, "Totally worth it!"

When the original pearls are in good shape, turning a strand into a mixed necklace is a smart investment. (If someone wants to give you a gift, they often think 'new', but a reno can be a far better idea.)

Thanks to readers like Miriam, Leslie, LauraH, Cecily and Alice, we have learned so much. And my begging works! Another reader has offered to show her reno when it's ready.


Laura Jantek said…
These are so much fun and educational! Rules for renovating jewelry are helpful in other ways too. I don’t have any pearls worthy for redesigning but love these before and afters. Thank you
Leslie Milligan said…
Oooh, I have been waiting for you to post this and I love it!! Tell Alice that I’d be happy to swap with her, anytime. It sounds like she had as much fun and indecision and fun as I had. Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, she had your gentle guidance and enthusiasm. She will get tons of compliments on that necklace.
Ms. Liz said…
What a beautiful necklace! Stunning, playful AND it suits the owner so well. I am inspired!
Duchesse said…
Laura: yes, they are general principles you could apply to any beads. One important thing is to find a designer with a wide array of materials.

Leslie: Ha! I would love to have either of these. And... I have a strand of grey Tahitians that might get that treatment.

Ms Liz: Those pearls will now be worn as a new piece, in a new life. Another reason why I love pearls.
emma said…
These are gorgeous!
Wendy said…

What an amazing transformation! That new strand has such life to it. Thank you (and Alice) for sharing.
Leslie Milligan said…
Can you ask Alice how long is her necklace? It appears to be longer than mine and appealingly drapey when doubled. (You know, in case I decide to do something different with my remaining pearls.🤫)
une femme said…
I love the finished project! It's fun but elegant at the same time. Great choices!!
Duchesse said…
Leslie: 42 inches.

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