Ever since Mikimoto Kōkichi perfected culturing pearls at the beginning of the 20thcentury, the lustrous gems have been born of a man-inserted nucleus rather than an opportunistic irritant. To date, these nuceli have been non-precious items such as beads or crushed mussel shells, but now pearl farmers have mastered a technique that uses turquoise.
Oysters surround the bead of turquoise with nacre, and so make a pearl with an unusual centre. The beauty of this combination is revealed by carving the pearls in a decorative fashion, and so allowing the turquoise beneath to be visible.
Pearl specialist Remay London has been transforming these unusual turquoise-centred carved pearls into jewellery, focusing on Tahitian South Sea pearls. These black pearls are formed by the rare black-lipped oyster, Pinctada Margaritifera, and farmed in French Polynesia.
“To this day, the process of creating most cultured pearls consisted at introducing a nucleus – a polished, round sphere generally made from crushed freshwater mussel shell – along with a small piece of mantle tissue from another mollusc,” says Remay London founder Remi Andre. “Today’s techniques allow pearl farmers to substitute the long-time used freshwater mussel shell with other materials, such as turquoise.”
Tahitian pearls are rare, but Tahitian pearls with turquoise centres are even rarer – and the newness of their invention means finding the right quality can be tough. “The level of nacre on the pearl remains the same [compared to traditional nuclei], but it is very hard to obtain a good-quality pearl as the success rate isn’t that great yet,” says Andre.
Remay London will be showing some rare carved, turquoise-centred Tahitian South Sea pearls at The Jewellery Cut Live on September 15th& 16th, 2019, at Café Royal on London’s Regent Street. To see these gems up close, register for a free ticket here. The show is open to all jewellery lovers, from the simply curious to the serious collector.