Melanie Georgacopoulos on the Past and Future of Pearls

London-based, Greek fine jeweler Melanie Georgacopoulos is one of the finest artists out there reinventing pearls, taking what many consider a classic gem and putting an über-modern spin on it with pieces that are so good, they practically belong in a museum.

Once you see her work, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the jewelry designer has a background in sculpture. The jewels are beautifully honed with a very purposeful flair, like taking a chisel to stone. If you didn’t think you could be obsessed with pearls, you haven’t seen Georgacopoulos’ offerings.

This year, Georgacopoulos celebrates the 10th anniversary of her eponymous brand, with a collection that will be unveiled this fall. Below, JCK talks with the designer about the joy of working with pearls and changing our expectations of the gem of the sea.

Melanie Georgacopoulos Cube necklace
Cube necklace with sliced white freshwater pearls and 19 mm peacock pearl cubes, price on request

What is it about the pearl that draws you to it the most?

The fact that even if it is cultured, every pearl is made by a little animal inside the sea, and that makes every single pearl that I use very special. Looking into the future, good-quality pearls are dependent on the health of their environment, so by supporting pearling companies which respect and protect nature, we help protect it, too!

Melanie Georgacopoulos asymmetrical Nacre ring
Nacre ring in 18k yellow gold with mother-of-pearl and large golden South Sea pearl, price on request

For some reason, it still feels surprising when a designer does something daring with pearls. Why do you think we have this collective expectation for pearls to be so proper and classic?
It is very understandable because they have been unchanged for so long! Looking back one could say that other gemstones, such as the diamond, have evolved through the changes by cutting or faceting them (old mine diamonds, rose cuts, portrait cuts, roughs, cabochons, etc.), but pearls have pretty much always remained the same: round or drop shape and a few baroque shapes. So when one looks at old paintings or jewelry with pearls, they see most times one to two shapes, and I think that has greatly influenced our perception of them. But I have to say that I’m very happy to be part of a wave of change, because there is still clearly a lot of unexplored territory in the field of contemporary pearl jewelry!

What have you been working on lately? Any new collections or designs?
Yes, 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of my brand, so I have been working on a very special group of pieces that feature diamonds and natural pearls [to be introduced on October 5].

Melanie Georgacopoulos pearl chains
Large rectangle necklace in oxidized sterling silver with pearls, price on request

What’s your favorite piece you ever designed?

That is a very tricky question! There are at least a dozen, but today I will pick the large rectangle necklace that I made for Thomas Erber and his Cabinet de Curiosités a few years back because I love its scale and audacity [pictured above].

How has the pandemic changed your business, if at all? What are you doing differently?

I think there is not a single person that has not been affected one way or another by the pandemic. It has certainly forced me to reflect on my future and how I would like it to be. I have seen a noticeable increase in private commissions, which I highly enjoy, and much more interaction with private clients throughout the confinement period. I have decided to make less pieces from now on, more special, one-of-a-kind, and really focus on the quality.

Melanie Georgacopoulos Facets ring
Facets oval ring in 18k yellow gold with mother-of-pearl and freshwater pearl, price on request

What sort of pieces do you think jewelry retailers should stock for the holiday season?

I think they should have one-off extravagant pieces that one buys for pure joy and indulgence (after all those months of abstinence) as well as the classic giftable, affordable pieces one buys to celebrate something special (lockets, initials, hearts). I think people will invest in jewelry during the holiday season because it feels like a safer choice than fashion or accessories.

Top: Melanie Georgacopoulos (photo by Kasia Bobula)

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine