Ocean’s Five: Breakout Pearl Designer Discoveries

Meet 5 designers who are guaranteed to give your store a dose of pearl power

Pernille LauridsenPernille Lauridsen

After perusing Danish jeweler Pernille Lauridsen’s creations, you’re left feeling as if you just attended a gallery dedicated solely to the art of the pearl.

“I just think the pearl is one of the most beautiful jewels you can use,” she says. “For me, it’s highly feminine; the way that light is absorbed by the surface seems so delicate. Pearls are timeless and elegant, giving you so many possibilities to be creative, while still making a classic piece of jewelry.” 

The ocean is a major muse for the designer, who has given her collections names such as Waves and dubbed her individual designs Mermaid and Pink Seafoam (to name just two). You can practically hear the sounds of the sea just by looking at them. But there’s a playful touch across her other collections as well; Ice Cream is an especially fun one, ­featuring gold-plated waffle cone pendants topped with baroque freshwater or Tahitian pearls in assorted shades (i.e., flavors of ice cream).

“I always find inspiration in the ocean and interior design,” Lauridsen says. “I’m looking for inspiration in my daily life, and things that catch my eye. I’m just often thinking of a new way to showcase my personal style into a piece of jewelry.”

Lovers of pearls and modern styles alike will get lost in the Copenhagen, Denmark–based creator’s fluid, squiggly lines, glistening organic pearls—freshwater, Tahitian, keshi, and a rare specimen called pipi shells—and clever ­additions of colored gems.

Pernille Lauridsen electrum waves seafoam earringElectrum Waves Seafoam earring in 22k gold–plated silver with pink keshi pearl; $136 (sold singly); Pernille Lauridsen; shop@pernillelauridsen.com; pernillelauridsen.com


Lauren Harwell GodfreyHarwell Godfrey

If “handmade in California” conjures images of breezy, easy-to-wear jewels, Lauren Harwell Godfrey is doing it right. The San Francisco–based founder/designer behind Harwell Godfrey—a blend of her maiden and married names—doesn’t work exclusively with pearls, but her pearl creations certainly leave a lasting impression.

Godfrey has worn many hats: After 15 years as an art director and creative director in the advertising industry, she followed another passion into the world of critically acclaimed and popular restaurants (think Chez Panisse), mastering the art of food. 

Now, she’s, ahem, cooking up an amazing assortment of fine jewelry with Harwell Godfrey. Inspired by the ­power of crystals and their ancient history of healing, Godfrey designs pieces to connect with ­consumers not only on a visual level, but also on a spiritual one.

Geometrically inclined jewelry, often inset with gemstones, is a common theme in the line. A small—but powerful—selection of those pieces features big, bold pearls, such as the Sera Water Poison ring, a hinged, locket-style piece that positions a large Tahitian pearl atop a bed of inlaid mother-of-pearl.

“I believe consumers are ready to dust off their pearls and bring them back into fashion in contemporary ways,” Godfrey says. “It’s when pearls are being used in surprising contexts that they become exciting again.”

Harwell Godfrey sera water poison ringSera Water Poison ring in 18k yellow gold with inlaid mother-of-pearl and large Tahitian pearl; $8,250; Harwell Godfrey; 646-745-6831; harwellgodfrey.com


Rosa Van ParysRosa Van Parys

Specializing in one-of-a-kind creations, the Ecuadorian-raised, Southern California–dwelling artist Rosa Van Parys is a whiz with detail, undoubtedly owing to her other career as an architect/interior designer. She characterizes her work as “elegance with edge.”

You get a sense that Van Parys is inspired by strong women by the look of her designs—even before visiting her website, which flashes the phrases She is strong! She is smart! She is sexy! She is empowered! in big, bold letters. Taking design risks, or what Van Parys calls “fearless moves”—such as ­“combining a precious symbol of perfection and purity, like an AAA Tahitian pearl with a daring element like an ­embellished gold dagger”—pays off big-time.

Masterpieces with glossy pearls paired with daggers, horns, or spikes—drenched in glittering gemstones such as pink and yellow sapphires, tsavorites, and diamonds—catch the eye and capture the heart. Van Parys’ playful version of an ice cream cone pendant slathers a rich scoop of Tahitian pearl with multicolored sapphire and tsavorite (rainbow) sprinkles, topped by a ruby-­accented cherry.

“I totally feel that a large majority of younger generations have the misconception that pearls are for grandmas,” Van Parys says. “I want to change that with my pearl designs. I think every girl should own a strand of pearls, and I think mine make pearls current, fun, and edgier.”

Rosa Van Parys tahitian pearl necklaceSignature 8 mm Tahitian pearl necklace in 18k yellow gold and diamond, tsavorite, and rhodolite clasp, with 18k black gold and amethyst add-on ring, 18k yellow gold and yellow sapphire add-on connector, and 15 mm peacock Tahitian pearl pendant with large dagger in 18k white, black, and yellow gold and diamonds; $23,085; Rosa Van Parys; 818-928-4430; rosavanparys.com


Alessandra DonaAlessandra Donà

Born and raised near Venice, Italy, Alessandra Donà is truly all about pearls: You’re hard-pressed to find a jewel without one. The rare pieces that are pearl-free serve as accompaniments—stacking rings that mimic a larger design’s details, stud earrings to wear opposite a dangling pearl earring for an asymmetrical look.

“The pearls are among those things that Mother Nature incredibly donates us and are among the most ­fascinating subjects on our planet,” Donà says. “I ­exclusively use pearls from the South Sea, the most beautiful and rare pearl there is.”

Through her two collections—the rock star–worthy Friday Night and Timeless (described as “not classic” by the designer, despite its name)—Donà lets her pearls take center stage, using a minimalist approach and modern silhouettes that truly let the gems shine. Think hoop earrings dotted with brightly colored gemstones, capped off by a large pearl; stud earrings joined by a delicate chain-link ear cuff; a ­lavalier-style single-pearl necklace, oozing sex appeal. True, these may not be your grandma’s pearls, but, with their just-off-classic aura, someday, they’ll belong to someone’s grandma.

“In order to make live ­objects or creations linked to the past and to a classical lifestyle,” Donà says, “it is necessary to continuously reinterpret the objects so that they keep intact the attractiveness for people living in our contemporary world.”

Alessandra Dona rose gold mono pearl earringsMono-earring in 18k rose gold with 10 mm–11 mm black South Sea pearl and 0.04 ct. rhodolite, €815 ($914); Mono-earring in 18k rose gold with 8 mm–9 mm and 10 mm–
11 mm white South Sea pearls and 0.04 ct. t.w. pink sapphires, €1,240 ($1,390); Alessandra Donà at Gioielli Group; 914-289-0206; alessandradona.com


Siobhan ONeillSweet Pea Jewellery

From a Flapper Girl Pearl collection to classic black-and-white pearl styles, clustered pearl pieces, and one-of-a-kind designs, Siobhan O’Neill, the designer behind Sweet Pea Fine Jewellery, knows her way around the glistening gem. “I have always loved pearls, even my grandmother’s!” says the London-based O’Neill. “The fact that it has been drawn from the sea and formed by a living creature is enthralling to me.”

A look over her rich lineup is like a journey through time; starting in the 1920s, continuing through the ’70s, to the here and now, there’s a nod to many eras.

“I love vintage clothes and accessories, architecture, and old black-and-white films,” says O’Neill, who set up her own business in 1991 after creating one-offs for the ­runways of designers including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

Yet many of O’Neill’s creations possess an undeniable timeless quality: sweet necklaces strung with a single pearl, hoop earrings nestled with a pearl in their arcs, seed pearls grouped along a chain, and stacking rings adorned with dangling pearl charms, all set in rich 18k gold. It’s perhaps her one-of-a-kind pieces—where she dares to facet her pearls, creating a look that puts a glossy pearl in a textured net—that are the most striking.

Plus: Any Sweet Pea piece can be effortlessly layered, lending a more-the-merrier vibe to her entire line.

Sweet Pea flapper girl pearl hoop earringsFlapper Girl medium hoop earrings with white seed pearls and moonstones in 18k yellow gold; £1,025 ($1,344); Sweet Pea Fine Jewellery; mail@sweetpeajewellery.com; sweetpeajewellery.com

(Godfrey: Ella Sophie)

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