The Two Sides of Pearls

Pearl jewelry, more popular than ever, has settled into two distinct design camps. One, lush and luxurious, mixes exquisite South Seas or Tahitian pearls with diamonds and gemstones or drapes the body with piles of pearls fastened with a magnificent clasp. The other, calm, minimalist, and Zen-like, uses—in the words of A Chorus Line—one singular, sensational pearl as the design focal point.

Each aesthetic has its devotees, and examples of both are available in a wide range of price points. A simple, single pearl drop is always appropriate for daytime or casual wear, while the rich look of a pearl-and – gemstone necklace perfectly complements this season’s extra-special party dressing. The two styles can even be mixed and matched—imagine a thick twist of baroque freshwater pearls accented by a single, perfect South Seas pearl drop at the hollow of the throat.

IPDC Winners Announced

The winners of the 1999 International Pearl Design Contest were announced recently in Kobe, Japan. This year’s Grand Prix winner was Noriko Oshima of Japan, who won for a choker necklace featuring Tahitian cultured pearls set in platinum, with diamond accents. The piece, titled “Asymmetry,” is an intricate lattice of pearls and platinum.

The contest attracted 979 entries from 20 countries, making it the largest pearl design competition in the world, with 127 contest entries from the United States and Canada. Winners were chosen in three categories: freestyle jewelry, thematic jewelry, and paper renderings. The contest theme was “The Sea.” Eight Americans and one Canadian were among the prize winners.

The other top prize winners were Eusebius and Hannes Gamper of Italy, who won first place in the freestyle category for their modern necklace with one Tahitian black pearl set on a sleek platinum choker. This piece also received an award from the Platinum Guild International, a sponsor of the contest.

Shu Hung Yang of Taiwan won first prize in the thematic category for an akoya pearl necklace that resembled ocean waves sculpted in white gold. He also received a special award from the World Gold Council for best use of material among all the contest entries.

First place in the paper-rendering category went to Nami Harada of Japan for a necklace of white pearl drops descending from rows of platinum and diamonds.

IPDC, now in its 27th year, is open to all professional, student, and nonprofessional jewelry designers and is intended to foster new and innovative cultured pearl jewelry designs from around the world. Cosponsors of the competition include the Japan Black Pearl Promotion Association and the South Sea Pearl Consortium. For information on entering the next contest, contact Ali Smith, Cultured Pearl Information Center, 321 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022; (212) 688-5580.