NO ORDINARY STRAND
The allure of pearls remains strong, with no gem more coveted than the radiant Australian South Sea pearl.
Astrand of pearls is an essential element of a classically elegant wardrobe, an heirloom and a mark of sophistication. For thousands of years, they have represented wisdom, purity and perfection. They are born of the ocean, complete, alluring and iridescent with an inner glow.
But the story of the Australian South Sea pearl, the most coveted of these living gems, is far from simple. Broome was built on the white-lipped pinctada maxima oyster, but it wasn’t the pearl the luggers were originally seeking amid the huge tropical tides, but its shell.
Mother-of-pearl was particularly prized for buttons in a pre-plastic world. In Japan, Kokichi Mikimoto had success culturing Akoya oysters (and closely guarded this secret), but this practice was seen as a threat to the booming shelling industry and was outlawed in 1922 in Western Australia.
In 1949, the law was repealed; demand for the shell had all but vanished. Enterprising pearling masters began to experiment with the culturing process, with Dean and Lyndon Brown of Cygnet Bay having the first success. They helped nature along by embedding a nucleus of Mississippi clam shell into wild oysters.
To protect itself from the irritant, the oyster produces nacre: crystals of calcium carbonate that are laid down with perfect consistency to create that distinctive inner radiance. South Sea Keshi pearl Kimberley Lily 18ct white gold double pendant. RRP $1180 www.cygnetbaypearls.com.au
Sterling silver and pearl ring. RRP $3700 Rhodium-plated sterling silver and South Sea Keshi pearl Pipit earrings. RRP $550