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The Winners of the 2022 CPAA Design Competition Prove the Power of Pearls


Pearls have long shed their matronly reputation, and it’s been shown time and again now that, even when glistening with pristine polish, they needn’t be solely for the prim and proper.

In case one’s customers may still need some convincing, look to the 13th annual International Pearl Design Competition (IPDC) hosted by the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA). This year’s seven winners demonstrate the versatility and wide-ranging capability of the pearl, from the most artful creations to the new classics.

Decided upon by a panel of judges, the winners, which were announced on Nov. 1, were chosen across seven categories for the U.S. division, including the Retailer’s Choice Award, a new addition for this year, determined by the votes of 4,000 of the nation’s top retailers. A new Student Division, comprising entries in CAD-rendered sketches by U.S. jewelry students, saw a tie.

Winner of the President’s Trophy, the top prize in the competition, the Oceana pearl earrings by Tariq Riaz (shown at top) were chosen for their original design concept and sheer beauty, celebrating pearls in the most memorable of ways. In tricolor gold and featuring three variations of pearls, they are indeed an indelible sight.

Chaulri drawstring pearl earrings
Drawstring earrings in 18k white gold with Tahitian black pearls and diamonds, $1,720; Chaulri

Winner of the Luster Award with its Tahitian pearl Drawstring earrings is Chaulri, showing that pearls can effectively be mixed with a combination of high-low materials for an impactful look. With a neon pink drawstring that’s removable for each ear, the modern pair is youthful and chic.

Adam Neeley Nautilus earrings
Nautilus earrings in gradient SpectraGold with golden South Sea pearls, akoya pearls, and 0.48 ct. t.w. pavé diamonds; Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry

Adam Neeley, winner of the Visionary Award for Classic Styles understood the assignment with an updated take on an iconic nautilus look. With an ombré arrangement of golden South Sea pearls and white akoya pearls, the two-tone earrings, made using the brand’s proprietary SpectraGold gradient method, have universal appeal for both the classic pearl lovers and those wanting something more outside the box.

SD Cusson Sunrise Revisited pin
Sunrise Revisited pin in 18k white and yellow gold with golden South Sea pearl, 1.7 cts. t.w. yellow and green tourmaline, 1.19 cts. t.w. mandarin garnets, 0.65 ct. t.w. blue sapphires, 0.35 ct. t.w. yellow sapphires, and 0.25 ct. t.w. diamonds, price on request; S.D. Cusson

S.D. Cusson’s Sunrise Revisited pin took the prize in the Wedding Day Pearls category,  a representation of what the modern bride or groom might opt to wear for their nuptials. A tribute to Monet, the pin (which can also be worn as a pendant), features three movable sections in contrasting metal with gemstones arranged to look like a sunrise.

Crevoshay Treasure of the Sea bracelet
Treasure of the Sea bracelet in 18k yellow gold with South Sea pearls, 9.88 cts. t.w. sapphires, 8.62 cts. t.w. moonstones, 8.07 cts. t.w. tsavorite garnets, and 6.09 cts. t.w. diamonds, price on request; Crevoshay

Winner of the Fashion Award, the category honoring creativity and originality, Crevoshay’s Treasure of the Sea bracelet swirls with colorful sapphires, tsavorite, and moonstones, rippling around a row of 11 mm South Sea pearls.

Ashleigh Branstetter baroque pearls
Detachable earrings in 18k white gold with baroque cultured South Sea pearls, 25.09 cts. t.w. Namibian chalcedony, and 1.58 cts. t.w. diamonds, price on request; Ashleigh Branstetter

Ashleigh Branstetter’s detachable pair of earrings featuring baroque South Sea pearls and natural Namibian chalcedony took the top prize in the Spotlight Award category, honoring baroque-shape pearls. The category sought to highlight pieces made up of at least 75% baroque pearls, highlighting the gem in compelling ways.

Katerina Evanthia Thermal Blue earrings
Thermal Blue Byzance earrings in 14k rose gold with natural-color blue akoya pearls and 6.48 cts. t.w. princess-cut blue topaz, price on request; Katerina Evanthia

CPAA asked 4,000 top jewelry retailers to name their favorite piece from all U.S. finalists, and it was Katerina Evanthia’s Thermal Blue Byzance earrings, which was the winner of the Retailers’ Choice Award. With natural blue akoya pearls and complementing princess-cut blue topaz in soft rose gold, the earrings certainly leave an impression.

Judges of this year’s competition included Jean Francois Bibet, workshop and production director at Cartier; Patricia Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery in Manhattan; Lenore Fedow, associate editor, National Jeweler; Maria Tsangaropoulos, supervisor of instruction at GIA’s New York City campus; Michael Coan, assistant professor, jewelry design department, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT); and Kathy Zaltas, owner, Zaltas Gallery, Mamaroneck, N.Y. Peggy Grosz, senior vice president, Assael, helped judge part one of the entries.

Select winners of the contest will go on display at Aaron Faber Gallery in Manhattan. For a list of winners from the international portion of CPAA’s competition, click here.

Top: Oceana earrings in 18k white, rose, and yellow gold with akoya, South Sea, and freshwater pearls, 7.4 cts. t.w. diamonds, 1.28 cts. t.w. pink sapphires, and 1.25 cts. t.w. tsavorite, price on request; Tariq Riaz

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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