From Mine to Store: Naomi Sarna’s Queen of the Sea Brooch

When Naomi Sarna saw the concave natural pearl that anchors the design of this otherworldly brooch, she knew immediately what she wanted to do with it. “I said, ‘That’s the queen of the sea and she needs a crown,’?” recalls Sarna, who’s known for creating profoundly fluid shapes in her work. “I buy my pearls almost exclusively from James Peach from the United States Pearl Company—he really has an eye for unusual pieces. He showed me this pearl, and it really was my inspiration.” The brooch “went through a number of iterations,” says the New York City–based designer. “I was considering a jellyfish queen…but eventually landed on The Queen of the Sea. Think of pictures of Queen Elizabeth with the big ruffle around her neck. There’s a certain of-course-I’m-the-queen look about her. When I look at this piece, I see that same kind of regality.” 

Under the Sea

Accounting for the brooch’s many materials got “very messy,” says Sarna, as she redid the piece several times. Apart from the GIA-certified natural pearl (roughly 38 mm long), her best guesses for the remaining materials: 3 cts. t.w. moonstones, 4 cts. t.w. Ethiopian opals, 6.3 cts. t.w. sapphires, 1.82 cts. t.w. white diamonds, and 0.66 ct. t.w. black diamonds—set in sterling silver, 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, and platinum. “At one point I dismantled a lot of the piece, and built it up again,” Sarna says. “That’s when it becomes excruciating to keep track of it all.”

A Two-Year-Long Voyage

The brooch took around two years to create, for various reasons: Platinum wire was embedded into gold around the diamonds “to make the white diamonds very white,” explains Sarna. The moonstones were set, then removed and recut “so the eye of the stones would be looking at you and not cockeyed all over the place.” Ruffles, horns, and “tails” were added. “I wanted everything to have a very watery look,” says Sarna. “And that took time.”

Laser Focus

Everything was laser-welded together—out of necessity, Sarna says. “You can’t heat a natural pearl, and you can’t heat opals or moonstones. Laser welding has a little heat, but not like soldering.” She and her team created tiny pins on the backs of every element, which they then lasered to the brooch’s other pieces. “This piece could not have been made before laser welding existed.”

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