Pearl jam

Winning Pearls

The 26th International Pearl Design Contest winners proved again that pearls today are anything but basic. The 1998 contest received a record 1,629 entries from 29 countries. Competition is divided into three categories: freestyle actual jewelry design, thematic actual jewelry design, and paper rendering design. Entrants are required to use natural or cultured pearls as the central design element, but gemstones, precious metals, and other materials may be used as accents.

There were six Americans and one Canadian among the winners. Lili Chu of Mikimoto America Co. Ltd. took first place in the thematic category for a South Seas pearl, platinum, and diamond necklace. The theme was “the sea.” Philip Dismuke of Jewelsmith in Durham, N.C., and Avi Raz of A & Z Pearls, Los Angeles, earned fifth place in the category.

Antje C. Roitzch of Michael Good Designs, Rockport, Maine, took third place in the freestyle category, and independent designer Susan Marie Phipps of Asheville, N.C., won fifth place in the same category.

In the rendering category, Taeko Watagami took second place and Miriam Sitner fifth place. Both are students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Canadian Jo-cy Lee of Mandarin Gems & Jewellery Ltd. in Richmond Hill, Ontario, was awarded second place in the freestyle category as well as fourth place in the rendering category.

Six weeks after the contest winners were announced in Kobe, Japan, the Japan Pearl Promotion Society (JPPS) and the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) hosted a celebration fashion show in New York. The event, held at the Pierre Hotel, featured winning pieces from the contest, paired with haute couture fashions by Japanese fashion designer Madame Harumi Fujimoto.

Shunsaku Tasaki, president of JPPS and host of the evening, said the gala was a token of appreciation for the U.S. jewelry industry’s support of cultured pearls. In 1997, the category posted a record $1.2 billion in U.S. retail sales.

“The U.S. is currently the most important market in the world for cultured pearls,” he said. “No other country has posted such strong sales growth in this area. We owe much of this success to the retailers, importers, and designers who have made such a significant commitment and contribution to our gems.”

During the evening, New York City protocol commissioner Irene Halligan relayed greetings from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and presented Tasaki and CPAA president Stanley Schechter with an official mayoral proclamation citing July 20, 1998, as “Cultured Pearl Day” in the city.

The International Pearl Design contest is sponsored by the Japan Pearl Promotion Society and supported by various trade groups including the Platinum Guild International and the World Gold Council. To obtain an entry form for

the 27th annual IPDC, contact Tracy Strong at the Cultured Pearl Information Center, (212) 688-5580, Ext. 210. Forms will become available in late January 1999. Deadline for entry is mid-March 1999.

Purrls, Anyone?

Not every store is thrilled to have a bandit on the premises, but this Bandit is a beloved celebrity at The Gold Concept in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Mimi McAfee, the store’s two-legged manager, says Bandit attracts a great deal of traffic into the store. People frequently bring a cat toy, kitty treats, or catnip when they come to shop, and each year the jeweler holds at least one promotion starring Bandit.

Bandit turned 10 years old in August. (That, incidentally, places her under the sign of Leo the Lion.) In honor of its little lion’s birthday, the store held a gala celebration to benefit the nearby Woods Humane Society. During the weekend of Bandit’s birthday, 10% of all sales in The Gold Concept were donated to the animal shelter. Additionally, McAfee, Bandit, and crew encouraged customers to open their hearts to more than just jewelry. Shelter personnel set up an “adopt-a-pet” center at the store in honor of Bandit’s birthday. The promotion raised $850 for Woods Humane Society, and seven animals – two cats and five dogs – got homes.

Men in Black Pearls?

It wouldn’t be the first time the male of our species has desired this sea-born gem. Caligula, for example – though admittedly not a great role model – was said to be a great lover of pearls. More to the point, he was a lover on pearls because reportedly, he built pearl couches for his paramours. And Henry VIII furnished his entire court, and his wives, with pearls he was given from the Catholic Church.

Today, certainly a dinner jacket looks understatedly elegant when paired with pearl studs and cufflinks, but when it comes to pearl necklaces and earrings on men, well, nothing’s surprising anymore. After all, whoever thought young men would purposely wear their pants virtually around the knees with underwear in plain sight?

Below, his Tahitian pearl necklace by Rafco International; stud earring by Sakin & Co. Her South Seas pearl and diamond necklace by ProVockative Gems; South Seas pearl and diamond earrings by Frank Mastoloni and Sons; Tahitian pearl, platinum, and diamond ring by Gumuchian Fils.