Industry / Pearls

Perfectly Imperfect: Baroque And Keshi Pearls


Anyone who loves a good pun would be powerless to resist the “if it’s not baroque, don’t fix it” line when on the subject of baroque pearls. But the fact is, there’s nothing broke about this variation at all—in fact, it makes its wearer look quite put together.

Jenny Norman Polaris pearl earrings
Polaris drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with cultured South Sea circlé pearls and 0.18 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,325; Jenny Norman
Grace Lee baroque pearl coil ring
Coil ring in 14k yellow gold with baroque pearl and diamond, $538; Grace Lee
Hi June Jackie petal pearl earrings
Petal pearl Jackie earrings in recycled 14k yellow gold with freshwater cultured baroque pearls, 0.45 ct. t.w. morganite, and 0.52 ct. t.w. salt and pepper diamonds, $2,450; Hi June Parker
Claw earrings in silver and 18k gold with freshwater pearls and 6 cts. t.w. old mine–cut diamonds, $27,600; Mindi Mond

From the Portuguese word barroco (misshapen pearl), baroque pearls rise well above their not particularly positive moniker. In fact, they’re quite prized by pearl collectors, though the perfectly round variety remains the most valuable.

Anne Sisteron Moorea earrings
Moorea earrings in 14k yellow gold with baroque pearls, turquoise, and diamonds, $1,885; Anne Sisteron
Emily Kuvin baroque pearl necklace
Stella necklace in sterling silver with baroque pearls, peridot, and diamonds, $1,000; Emily Kuvin
Imperial Pearl baroque earrings
Earrings in 14k rose gold with baroque pearls, $780; Imperial Pearl

It makes sense that today’s consumer would appreciate the baroque pearl especially. With an increased desire for pieces that feel unique, and expressive, a “perfectly imperfect” pearl fits the bill far better than a strand of uniformly shaped spheres.

Marlo Laz pearl earrings
Elixir drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with Tahitian baroque pearls and diamonds, $3,300; Marlo Laz
Katkim pearl Oasis ring
Oasis ring in 18k yellow gold with keshi pearl and 0.17 ct. diamond, price on request; KatKim
Deborah Blyth Hebe pearl earrings
Hebe earrings in gold vermeil with baroque pearls, £229 ($315); Deborah Blyth

Designers have embraced the baroque shape even more, too, using its organic form as inspiration for interesting settings and embellishments, much akin to dressing raw gemstones, which is also popular.

Lika Behar Katya necklace
Katya necklace in sterling silver and 24k yellow gold with keshi pearls and 0.1 ct. t.w. cognac diamonds, $2,310; Lika Behar
Pacharee keshi pearl earrings
Petals earrings in 18k yellow gold with keshi pearls, €2,890 ($3,350); Pacharee

Speaking of perfectly imperfect—the keshi pearl. Sometimes known as the “accidental pearl” keshis aren’t technically pearls at all, rather they’re by-products of the pearl-making process. But that’s where the magic lies.

Common Era pearl necklace
Galatea collar necklace in gold vermeil with freshwater pearls, $250; Common Era
Camille Beinhorn Cloud ring
Cloud ring in sterling silver with freshwater keshi pearl, $475; Camille Beinhorn Jewelry

As a pearl is forming inside a mollusk, sometimes a piece of it may break off and go rogue. Since it doesn’t really have anywhere to go—it’s still inside the mollusk, after all—it will irritate the mollusk, which then secretes its nacre, creating another pearl-like form. What would have been a nucleated pearl gets locked to the curb, and the mollusk continues to secrete nacre over this accidental form instead.

Petal earrings in 14k recycled yellow gold with keshi pearls, $875; White/Space
Callista by Vinita pearl bracelet
Bracelet in brass with natural freshwater keshi and baroque pearls, $165; Callista by Vinita

We say “pearl-like” because this second formation is only nacre, without a nucleus that would play an important part in forming a traditional pearl.

These non-nucleated pearls are 100% nacre, and, to put it ineloquently, they’re shiny as hell.

Milamore pearl duo chain
Chain duo necklace in 18k yellow gold with freshwater pearls, $1,780; Milamore

Which makes for really, really fantastic jewelry, often at a lower price point than the traditional, “perfect” pearl.

Naughton Braun Lavender keshi pearl necklace
Lavender Fields Provence three-strand necklace in silver with keshi pearls, $684; Naughton Braun

The world of pearl is endlessly fascinating, with a variety that could convince even the staunchest opponent to give in to its mystical allure. For those who are strapped with the old buttoned-up reputation of the gem, let this be yet another example that shows pearl is so much more than what the average consumer may believe it to be.

Top: Flower earrings in 18k white gold with 16.5 cts. t.w. aquamarine and South Sea keshi pearls, $24,000; Assael

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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