Home' Scoop : Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Contents 124 SCOOP SUMMER 2009
Irecently stopped trying on my grand-
mother's pearls and decided to buy myself
a pair of pearl earrings -- sorry Gran the
days of you being the only one to wear
pearls are long gone.
My mother, older sister, gran and I all wear pearl
jewellery, set in distinctively different ways, in a
variety of shapes and sizes. Some truly beautiful
and stylish pearl jewellery designs have now created
a whole new attitude towards these organic gems.
Still associated with class and grace, they're no
longer only worn on special occasions, but are
paraded by women of all ages in any outfit at any
time of the day. And WA's South Sea pearls are
considered the best in the world.
Our pearling industry began in Shark Bay in
the 1850s and quickly spread along the northwest
coast and in particular, to Broome.
Kailis jewellery designer Simon Henderson says
the pearls produced in Australia's northwest are the
result of a particular set of unique circumstances.
"We have ideal conditions in the northwest's
pristine waters which cannot be replicated -- this is
the water temperature and isolation. Pearl growers
have tried to export the oyster to other environ-
ments and the pearls the oyster produces when
moved do not compare to those here, they simply
cannot achieve the size or quality," Simon says.
Only select species of freshwater and saltwater
molluscs can create the organic gem.
"Australian South Sea pearls are grown in
Pinctada Maxima which is the largest pearl-
producing oyster in the world. They are grown
in some of the remotest locations in the world,
mostly without a land base -- people fly in and live
on a boat for four weeks while they harvest. It is a
treacherous endeavour," says Simon.
And they aren't produced overnight. It takes at
least two years to cultivate a South Sea pearl. That is
because they have a much thicker nacre coating than
many other pearls and usually start at 10mm in size.
The term "cultured" pearls refers to pearls that
are produced and harvested by
pearl farmers. A bead (made of
shell) is placed in the oyster which
coats it with nacre to produce a
pearl. An oyster may produce sev-
eral pearls over its lifetime. Although
the most valuable pearls are perfectly
spherical, pearls come in a variety of shapes
including teardrops and the popular baroque pearl.
"When I started using pearls in 1979 they were
out-of-shape pearls and I found them very interest-
ing because of the organic shapes," says Linneys'
owner and creative director Alan Linney. "Japanese
pearls have a thin coating of nacre so even if a pearl
from WA hasn't got the highest quality lustre at least
it will give you a long life because about 50 percent
of the pearl is the bead in the middle, instead of 90
percent like the Japanese pearl," he says. "We had
the first showing of Western Australian pearls in
Australia in the streets here (Subiaco) in 1983, but
prior to that there was just little Japanese pearls."
The lustre and surface of the pearl define its
quality. The more brilliant the glow the higher the
lustre and thicker the nacre, while lower quality
pearls appear chalky and dull. "There's high, medium
and low lustre, which depends on the animal and
condition of the animal which is why oysters are
cultured -- so you can look after them. I've seen pearls
that are covered in black because the animal is sick,"
says Alan. "The colour is also genetic. There's white,
silver/blue, silver/pink and pearls with a yellow
tinge but that depends on the animal."
Innovative WA jewellery designs have been
essential to the popularity of the pearl. "Because of
our isolation, designers in WA operate in a sphere of
their own. We are not influenced by the same envi-
ronment as designers from other markets. While we
are aware of international trends, it's not something
that dictates to us. This has proven to be a distinct
advantage when it comes to looking at a classic pearl
in a new and imaginative way," Simon says.
Western Australian pearls are the most beautiful in the world
and whether you embrace old world opulence or prefer dazzling
modern designs, WA's pearl producers and jewellery designers
offer the best of both worlds. Discover why pearls from our coast
are the best and how to care for them so they last for generations.
text clare ryan
JEWELS OF THE SEA: (this page) Michella Cruz
wears the Versatility Strand by Kailis, Love Not Last
Ring also by Kailis; below oyster pearl sac; (opposite
above) Selection of classic Galwey pearls; (opposite
below) Linneys 18ct white gold and diamond earrings
featuring Australian South Sea pearls.
Links Archive Scoop 52 Navigation Previous Page Next Page