Beauty from the ocean depths
Known as one of the rarest cultured pearls in the world, Brereton blue pearls are unique to the Marlborough region at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.
Unknown to many people, nestled next to the navigation beacons which guide many vessels entering the Marlborough Sounds and the Port of Picton, lays the only farm in the world to produce Brereton blue pearls.
Formerly known as an Akaroa blue pearl, the Brereton blue pearl has arguably the highest lustre of any pearl and is one of the rarest cultured pearls in the world. Grown in our endemic abalone species, known locally as paua, and unique to Marlborough New Zealand, these rare gems are a worthy addition to any jewellery collection.
The Brereton’s premium quality pearls are currently only available through their Picton retail outlet located at 2 London Quay, Picton, or via inquiry or online store www.pearls.kiwi
A passion for perfection
Although trained in the Otago region and originally from the South island’s West Coast, Murray Brereton chose to establish his first store in 1986, just south of Timaru in the rural farming township of Waimate.
Feeling the need for a change after a visit to the small seaside town of Akaroa in 1995, Murray shifted the business to a shop on the main street, and then into custom built premises on the main wharf where it remained for well over a decade.
It was here Murray met his wife Carmel and saw the beauty and potential in New Zealand’s rare blue pearl. Over the following years, Murray would forge a successful jewellery business that focused on hand-
setting the pearls into high-quality original pieces made on site from predominately 18ct gold, sterling silver and, occasionally, platinum.
With an increase in demand but ever diminishing quality and quantity available from suppliers, it was clear a change was needed within the industry to ensure that customer’s needs and expectations were met and satisfied well into the future.
With help from like minded individuals, Brereton’s has led New Zealand’s blue pearl sales and development through innovation, design and passion.
With the decision made to secure a source of top quality pearls for the future and the Christchurch earthquake leaving Akaroa staff on edge, the business was relocated to Picton to be closer to the source and a family of dedicated Paua pearl and meat producers.
Already located in arguably the best location in New Zealand to produce pearls, the Tory channel, and open to trying new techniques, ideas and processes to increase yields, it was a logical and productive move which made the Brereton’s business become the first jewellers in the world to have blue pearls produced for them and delivered via raw ‘in shell’ form ready to be processed by their own custom built equipment.
The pearl and jewellery process
The process of culturing a Brereton pearl begins with wild paua (of minimum legal size or larger) being selected from the wild then implanted with a shell, plastic or resin-based form. This acts as an irritant inside the paua, which it covers with layers of conchiolin and nacre, the necessary ingredients to create a pearl.
Then the waiting game begins. The paua are fed raw natural seaweed and checked twice a day to make sure their environment is up to standard and that they are eating enough. This stage is important as paua can eat up to half their body weight each week and if they become stressed, eating is the first thing they stop doing. How much food paua eat is used as an indicator of the harvest’s condition.
Unlike other pearls, a Brereton blue pearl is grown for a minimum of 3 years under the watchful and caring eyes of their growers. This is to ensure that each and every pearl is of a quality thickness before it is harvested, meticulously graded then handset by the Brereton family’s professional team in their Picton workshop.
After the meat is harvested, the pearls are processed using specialised machines developed in house which cut the pearls with .01 of a millimeter accuracy in incrementing half millimeter sizes. The pearls are graded according to a strict but easy to follow grading structure also developed by Brereton’s. The pearls are then recorded via an implanted RFID tag inserted during processing to mark the pearl as a Brereton Blue Pearl for customer and valuers identification use in the future.
The hard task of producing and processing the pearls is done, but the work is not finished yet.
From here specialised jewellers will select pearls and choose designs to best compliment the size, colours, lustre and character of each pearl either for stock or as ‘made to order’ pieces for customers, all done on site in a workshop that is open for you to view.
Murray Brereton is the man behind this venture selling some very fine jewellery set with the local blue pearls; truly if ever there was a business promoting the local product this was it, but even more surprising is that Murray is not only the owner but designer, maker and inspiration behind the shop’s obvious success. His workshop is truly a Heath Robinson creation the likes of which it is hard to imagine. So, if this sounds like the kind of small but original jewellers where one can shop in pleasant surroundings with seriously knowledgeable people who are passionate about what they make and sell that appeals to you, then a trip to Picton is thoroughly recommended by this London jeweller.
Brian R. Dunn RJDip FGA PJValDip Senior Valuer Asprey, Royal Jewellers of Bond Street, London 2002