New York City. Nov. 8, 2018. It was 10 years ago when London-based jewelry designer Melanie Georgacopoulos first felt a little sorry for the underrated and often neglected gemstone material mother-of-pearl.
“It’s often seen as a tacky material and has never really been showcased for its beauty,” she says of the lustrous oyster shells that are typically cut up and used to make inexpensive jewelry. “There is a lack of interesting mother-of-pearl jewelry, so I wanted to give this humble material value through craftsmanship.”
Also top of mind for this pearl-loving designer? The extraordinary prices high-profile diamonds fetch at auction as well as the complex environmental and social issues surrounding the mining industry. (The latter is a non-issue for the eco-friendly pearl-farming industry.)
She brainstormed, and the result is her Gemstone collection of 13 mother-of-pearl jewels that mimic popular diamond cuts in two-dimensional form. For example, the Cullinan I—the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, weighing 3,106.75 carats—is represented in one of her larger (6 cm) “gemstones.” Each comprises as many as 72 individual sliced and matched mother-of-pearl pieces that are precisely cut, filed, and polished before being assembled into 18k yellow gold bezel-set pendants, earrings, rings, and brooches.
Shells used include South Sea, golden, and Tahitian oyster shells as well as pink and white freshwaters. Akoya shells are noticeably absent. “They’re too small and not thick enough to use,” explains the artist.
The limited-edition offerings also represent a natural progression from Melanie’s ongoing examination of the pearl as well as a groundbreaking appearance for the little-celebrated shell material.
“It’s a tricky process but one that makes you feel very proud once you finish,” she says. Upon reflection, Georgacopoulos doesn’t want to inspire false hope in a future for the look. “These were so hard to make, I won’t make them again,” she concedes.
Collectors should take note: don’t look for these jewels in stores. Reach the artist directly to purchase these one-of-a-kinds. Retail prices start at £2,800.
This content is copyright protected and may not be reproduced.