Katura Design’s Silver Cuff With Freshwater Pearl Maltese Cross

Lee Wiser McIntosh of Atlanta-based Katura Design loves the iconic quality of the Maltese cross—a centuries-old motif popularized by Christian crusaders—but lacks enthusiasm for most market interpretations. “Most are very mathematical and traditional,” she explains. “I prefer a much more organic approach.”

To that end, she was immediately drawn to these wing-shape Chinese freshwater pearls, and turned them into a Maltese cross design. “Some people say [the pearls] look like chicken feet when they see them spread out on a tray, but that’s not a pretty description,” she says. “They’re wings.”

McIntosh’s Maltese cross is “very pared-down” and simple—what the artist strives to achieve in most creations.

Finished a few months ago, this piece hasn’t yet found a home but that hasn’t stopped her from working on related styles featuring rhodolite garnet and rough diamond centers. And those who like the funky pearl shapes as much as McIntosh will have to move quickly for an acquisition.

“My different pearl dealers in China tell me this shape is no longer being cultured,” she explains. “They told me that if I like them, I’d better buy them because when they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Silver cuff with pearl Maltese cross by Lee Wiser McIntosh 

Sterling cuff with 0.31 ct. diamond set in 14k gold; $4,500