“Wait—you literally slice the pearls in half? By hand? Isn’t that nerve-racking?” That was my initial response to seeing the Pearl Geode collection from Little H Jewelry at the NY Now show in New York earlier this week.
It takes a certain maverick personality type to even contemplate such a thing, yet the execution requires a certain cool, calm resolve. And after spending time at her booth, it’s clear that Hisano Shepherd, Little H’s designer, is blessed with both of these traits. One false move and the whole premise of the collection—to replicate the magical, nuanced sparkle of a geode with a luminescent pearl “crust” and hand-applied gemstone “crystals”—could literally go to pieces, but somehow Shepherd is able to achieve the impossible. And the fruits of her efforts are as captivating as they are complex.
If you’ve just returned from the Tucson gem shows, you will completely understand why Shepherd points to that show’s parking lots and conference rooms filled with 6-foot-tall amethyst and citrine geodes as the inspiration for her collection. “It’s a romantic notion that the interior of a pearl can be filled with luscious gems,” says Shepherd. “My mission is to create innovative and creative pearl jewelry. I want to show the world how unique pearls can be, and to push boundaries while creating a new dialogue in modern fine jewelry.”
Of course the secret to her technique is proprietary—and on some level, innate—but suffice to say Shepherd is emboldened by an intimate familiarity with the gem (the designer also works as a pearl buyer for her family’s business). With a surgeon’s precision, she marks the cut line on the pearl with a Sharpie marker, performs the “operation,” then cleans and polishes the concave interiors before embellishing them with recycled diamonds, sapphires, rubies, or emeralds, in carefully considered ombré palettes to better mimic how a geode’s crystals appear in nature.
All this work is done by hand in Shepherd’s Los Angeles studio. The labor involved is extensive, and seeing the pieces in person really drives this point home. But hopefully the photos below give you some idea and help illustrate why each piece is a little monument to nature and innovation, revealing an interpretation of luxury that’s equal parts radical and refined.
Freshwater soufflé pearl pendant in 14k white gold with light to blue sapphires, $2,200
Tahitian pearl and black diamond studs in 14k white gold, $1,650
Blue Trio ring in 14k white gold with pearls, including a white South Sea pearl detailed with blue diamonds, $2,500
White freshwater soufflé pearl earrings in 14k white gold with emeralds and diamonds, $3,600
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