PEARLS OF WIS­DOM

With three gen­er­a­tions of fam­ily, Pas­pa­ley de­fines lux­ury her­itage in Aus­tralia. Chris­tine Sal­ter, the brand’s cre­ative di­rec­tor and grand­daugh­ter of the founder, em­braces the beauty of pearls.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Zara Wong.

Pas­pa­ley cre­ative di­rec­tor Chris­tine Sal­ter em­braces the beauty of pearls.

With a twist and a pull, the strand of pearls is bro­ken. Only mo­men­tar­ily – Chris­tine Sal­ter, Pas­pa­ley’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, pieces it back to­gether, trans­form­ing the sin­gle strand from a sin­gle neck­lace into bracelets and shorter neck­laces to layer, twist­ing them for ef­fect. The Rhap­sody Strand, at more than two me­tres long, is a land­mark piece in the Pas­pa­ley his­tory, made up of pearls in var­i­ous shapes and sizes with unique con­vert­ibil­ity. The knots be­tween each pearl are in­vis­i­ble, a se­cret tech­nique of the Pas­pa­ley com­pany. But per­haps I might be look­ing for some­thing more sub­tle, more ev­ery­day? Turn­ing, she’s as­sess­ing my hair, my skin tone, what I’m wear­ing. “Pink-toned, with the best lus­tre, 12 mil­lime­tres,” she de­ter­mines, de­scrib­ing what she has in mind.

Her own style is dis­cern­ing and chic: silk sep­a­rates el­e­gantly off­set her one-can-fea­si­bly-imag­ine size­able pearl col­lec­tion (“I wear cream in sum­mer, black in win­ter!” she says, laugh­ing). “I love pearls – when you hold them, put them against your neck, you see the light that comes from pearls makes your com­plex­ion glow. It brings more light to your face.”

Pearls are a test of pa­tience, with one strand tak­ing up to 10 years to per­fect. She tells of a par­tic­u­lar be­spoke piece, an opera-length neck­lace strand of per­fectly uni­form 17-mil­lime­tre pearls that took years to com­plete. “That size is ex­tremely rare, so in order to find a whole set of 17-mil­lime­tre rounds that also matched in colour, lus­tre and sur­face com­plex­ion proved to be nearly im­pos­si­ble,” ex­plains Sal­ter. “We ended up hav­ing to undo other strands to take the 17-mil­lime­tre cen­tre pieces out of those, and it meant that for the next few years we couldn’t com­plete other strands. This is the kind of rar­ity you’re talk­ing about with South Sea pearls.”

The rar­ity and beauty of pearls has long been es­poused. But be­yond their mys­ti­cal al­lure – the only natural gems that are pro­duced by a liv­ing crea­ture – it was the ad­ven­ture that in­trigued Sal­ter and en­cour­aged her to join the fam­ily com­pany. Her grand­fa­ther, Ni­cholas Pas­palis, had fled Greece as a young child with his fam­ily to set­tle in Aus­tralia af­ter World War I. By 19 he owned his own pearling lug­ger and be­came an ex­pert in the Aus­tralian pearling in­dus­try. His sis­ter, Mary Dakas, Sal­ter’s greataunt, was Western Aus­tralia’s first pearl lug­ger. Af­ter fin­ish­ing high school, Sal­ter her­self spent time on the com­pany’s pearling ships as a deck­hand. It was a fam­ily tra­di­tion, as her broth­ers and cousin had done the same be­fore. “It was so beau­ti­ful out there, and good to feel a part of the crew,” she says of her ex­pe­ri­ence on the ships, which travel from Darwin to Broome and in be­tween. “I sup­pose my only re­gret is not hav­ing spent more time work­ing on the ships; I wish I could have done it for an­other year.” The ex­cur­sions in­volved be­ing out at sea for as long as a month, har­vest­ing, X-ray­ing and trans­port­ing the pre­cious goods back to be graded.

Now, when Sal­ter re­turns to the Kim­ber­leys, she brings spe­cial clients from around the world. “They can’t ac­cess this area; the only way you could get there is if you have your own boat or by sea­plane.” Years of work­ing with these spe­cial clients has equipped her with a sound knowl­edge of Pas­pa­ley pearl wear­ers. “It taught me about what cus­tomers want and don’t want,” she says, point­ing out that in one in­stance Syd­ney clients se­lected rose gold and mor­gan­ite colour­ways, whereas in Mel­bourne the pref­er­ence was black and white. Af­ter eight years of work­ing with clients, her cousin – James Pas­pa­ley, now CEO – sug­gested she be­came in­volved in de­sign. “Each of the roles I have been asked to do are based on my strengths,” she says of the ap­point­ment. “It’s my fam­ily and they un­der­stand me.”

She recog­nises that the chal­lenge of pearls is to up­turn pre­con­ceived no­tions. “Our de­signs have al­ways been ad­ven­tur­ous, even be­fore I started,” she says, telling me about the Lava­lier neck­lace, de­signed so that the pearl can re­main un­drilled and del­i­cately sus­pended in a net of gem­stone dbe speck­led gold .“Jewellery isn’t a sta­tus sym­bol any­more, and women want ver­sa­til­ity.”

Sal­ter brings me to one part of the Pas­pa­ley of­fices set be­neath Syd­ney’s Martin Place store, re­veal­ing a large trea­sure box of rare pearls that have been found by the Pas­pa­leys, from pearls that have a par­tic­u­larly lu­mi­nos­ity, unique colours, un­usual shapes or ex­treme sizes. One of these pearls can only be re­moved if an­other wor­thy se­lec­tion takes its place. The com­pany prides it­self on lus­tre, se­lect­ing only the best for its col­lec­tions – the re­main­ing 98 per cent is whole­saled to jewellery brands, in­clud­ing Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Harry Win­ston and more. “A pearl could be any shape, but if it doesn’t have lus­tre it’s not a beau­ti­ful ob­ject. Even a child would be in­clined to reach across the ta­ble and pick out the pearl with the most lus­tre, be­cause that is the most beau­ti­ful,” says Sal­ter, hold­ing up pearls and re­call­ing her me­mories of them. The pearls in the box have such a glow and shine that we can see our warped re­flec­tions. “That’s the thing about pearls. You don’t need a loupe to grade their beauty – it’s all done by eye.”

“MY ONLY RE­GRET IS NOT HAV­ING SPENT MORE TIME WORK­ING ON THE SHIPS”

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