Designers / Fashion / Industry / Pearls

The Founder of Fashion Jewelry Powerhouse Jia Jia Bets Big on Pearls


For a designer whose entire jewelry collection was founded on the healing power of crystals, Jia-Jia Zhu (pictured) is an unabashed pearl lover.

“Energetically they’re still crystals, they’re just from the sea,” Zhu tells JCK. “Their healing properties, their divine feminine energy, the fact that pearls are a regenerative stone even in the way they’re formed in the shell—I’ve always been very attracted to pearls. And growing up with the older women in my family, everyone wore pearls. Usually they wore them in a more classic way, not always a style I wore, but I always loved them.”

Three years ago, when the former fashion buyer for Bergdorf Goodman founded Jia Jia as a fashion jewelry brand of crystals set in 14k gold and embellished with diamonds, pearls were always a part of the mix. Zhu threaded white freshwater cultured pearls through 14k gold chains, adding chunky crystal Buddha pendants to the necklaces.

Over time, Zhu began making “half and half” strands featuring pearls and colored stone beads such as emeralds, chrome diopside, aquamarine, tourmaline, and rubies—including rainbow styles incorporating all of the above.

Jia Jia pearl strand crystal
Ocean jumbo freshwater pearl necklace in 14k gold with crystal quartz charm with 0.2 ct. t.w. diamonds, $2,900; Jia Jia 

The pearl-stone combos were so successful, and inspired such loyalty among her clients (Net-a-Porter ordered an exclusive collection), that Zhu was motivated to spin off the pearl pieces into their own dedicated 18k gold line, debuting this holiday season under the name Atlas.

“I was always looking for new ways to bead because our beaded business has become so big, and I wanted to try it with pearl,” Zhu says.

The new range includes on-trend open collar necklaces with cultured pearls (of the freshwater variety as well as white and golden South Sea pearls) studded on 18k gold tubing, open pearl and gold rings, and open pearl and gold bracelets, all deliberately not sized.

Atlas strand earrings
Keshi pearl earrings and pearl and 18k gold collars, necklaces, rings and bracelets from the upcoming Atlas collection by Jia-Jia Zhu

The freshwater collars range from $800 to $2,000 at retail, while the South Sea pieces come in under $2,000. The line even includes a stylish and unusual pair of square-shape keshi pearl earrings, arranged in graduated linear drops.

“The wonderful thing about pearls is that there’s something for everyone,” Zhu says. “It’s been really fun to create this whole new line just for pearls. It felt right to split this up as a separate brand. I wanted to keep Jia Jia more as crystals, and use pearls as part of the story, but for Atlas it’s really about honoring the pearl as the centerpiece.”

(Top photo by Julius Schlosburg)

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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