Strands of Time

A prized me­mento and a piece of myth, the pearl is ev­ery bit as iconic as the women who have worn them

Red Magazine - - Ac­quired - WORDS PRIS­TINE DE LEON

Pearls, the old­est jew­elry in the iconog­ra­phy of glamor, were worn even be­fore crafts­men dis­cov­ered how to cut stone. An­cient Greeks be­lieved that Aphrodite, emerg­ing tri­umphantly un­clothed from the crest of a foamy sea, is­sued tears of mirth in the form of pearls. The lit­tle white orbs sim­i­larly fig­ured in the world’s most in­fa­mous ro­mances: an en­grav­ing of Cupid and Psy­che’s mar­riage shows a string of pearls bind­ing the lovers. Then, there was Cleopa­tra con­fronting Marc Antony, parad­ing pomp and power by dis­solv­ing her pearl ear­ring in a ves­sel of wine vine­gar. Eras later, pearls evoked Coco Chanel or­ches­trat­ing the rise of a fash­ion em­pire. Both vir­ginal and provoca­tive, pearls rose in the pan­theon of pre­cious stones with their string of myths.

In lo­cal ter­ri­tory, these lu­mi­nes­cent orbs are made more al­lur­ing with their golden gleam. Baby Araneta Forés, dar­ling of Manila’s and New York’s so­cial cir­cles, was once painted by Chilean hy­per­re­al­ist artist Clau­dio Bravo wear­ing a golden pearl on her left ear.

The South Sea pearl, largely cov­eted for its rar­ity, gained promi­nence here with French-Filipino com­pany Jewelmer Joail­lerie cul­ti­vat­ing them in Palawan’s wa­ters, once part of the an­cient trade route called the Pearl Road. Since 1979, the brand has pi­o­neered the painstak­ing cul­ti­va­tion of the South Sea pearl, now re­garded as the coun­try’s na­tional gem—or the “Queen of Gems,” as it’s known the world over. From the gold-lipped Pinc­tada max­ima pearl oys­ters, the re­gal orbs found their way to the hands of Manila’s most prom­i­nent so­cial fig­ures, ei­ther strung to­gether in a sin­gle strand or tak­ing on Jewelmer Joail­lerie’s many other whim­si­cal ar­range­ments.

It takes up to 10 years to cre­ate a per­fectly matched pearl strand. Once fin­ished, it be­comes a woman’s most ver­sa­tile piece of jew­elry, out­liv­ing ev­ery pass­ing fad and fancy and evok­ing over a hun­dred years of fash­ion icons and femme fa­tales that em­ployed lus­trous beads to con­vey author­ity and el­e­gance.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PA­TRICK SEGOVIA

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