#thisispearl Nov. 2021 - Page 26

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Christina Lang Assael, Assael

“I had not yet met Salvador when he started the farm on Marutea. I was working at Sotheby’s and heard about this ‘black pearl necklace’ that Winston sold. Everyone was talking about it! It started a whole new ‘thing’! We knew it was Assael, as Sotheby’s had a special relationship with Salvador. I love that it gave a new industry to French Polynesia. Large black pearls simply didn’t exist before the 1970s.”

Peggy Grosz, vice president of business development, Assael

“Nothing looks like a Tahitian, so the design possibilities opened up dramatically when Tahitian black pearls came on the market. Tahitians have a completely different character and appeal! Alone they have a mood that depends upon the depth of color and color tones (or lack thereof). When combined with other materials, they stand as individual and important, as much so as any other gem. The most alluring things about pearls, the luster and organic nature, are true of Tahitians, but with a much more mysterious quality. They make a pearl lover’s choices more infinite.”

Esther Fortunoff, owner, Fortunoff Fine Jewelry

“Tahitian pearls, when they first began to appear, were a bit radical and revolutionary. I think they helped make pearls exciting and different. The black pearls have a bit of a more casual vibe, which allows women to wear them more often. And the women who go for them often don’t mind slightly baroque pearls and are looking for something that sets them apart.

There was a gorgeous strand of round lustrous graduated pearls that we found for Lauren Bacall, who had been a Fortunoff spokesperson in the 1980s. She wanted ones that were peacock color—she was a fan of pearls and wanted something unique and different.”

Carlos Chanu, owner, PCD Pearls

“My introduction to Tahitian pearls was in 1993 when I was selling diamonds. A friend introduced me to a man who had moved from California to Tahiti, making trips back and forth to sell pearls to jewelers. He had little knowledge of the business, though, and was looking to sell more. When I met him and saw the beauty, value, and natural colors of the Tahitian pearl I was swept away. They were spectacular, so different and colorful! I was mesmerized; I had never before seen cultured pearls as beautiful as the Tahitian pearl. They were also too beautiful to not sell, so they were part of the reason I transitioned away from diamonds to selling loose pearls and fine pearl jewelry. It was simply amazing to me that a creature could produce something as beautiful as a Tahitian pearl.”


Patricia Faber, owner, Aaron Faber Gallery

“Tahitian black pearls are the most modern of gems, bold and assertive, mysterious, and exotic. Their high-fashion sensibility and urban esthetic—also often black in color—and their stunning contrast with more traditional cultured pearls gives great inspiration to jewelry designers. Perhaps the best part of these gems is that they are so diverse; in the shell, the pearl develops natural hues and shades ranging from gray to deep black to iridescent overtones of purple, pink, green, and plum.”

Jay Mednikow, owner, Mednikow Jewelers 

“No other gem exhibits the orient and range of grays to blacks in the underlying body color, combined with the limitless, shifting undertones that make each Tahitian pearl unique. Much like fine colored gemstones, Tahitian pearls cannot easily be comparison shopped. No two strands of Tahitian black pearls are alike, and a woman knows if a strand is right for her when she first tries it on; the color and undertones must complement her own skin coloring. It’s not unlike finding a makeup color for her skin tone, choosing from endlessly subtle hues.”

Erica Courtney, founder, Erica Courtney Fine Jewelry

“Black cultured pearls are mysterious and seductive; when you’ve spent a lifetime looking at white pearls, black pearls offer an opportunity for a completely different look in your wardrobe. Plus, a strand of black pearls is so versatile! I’ve found that black pearls look just as good with a white T-shirt as they do with an evening gown. My favorite piece of black pearl jewelry is always a strand because I can layer it with whatever else I’m wearing.”


In Reverse earrings in 18k rose gold are 1.25 inches long and havea 14.2 mm round Tahitian pearl, a 17.2 by 12.8 mm drop-shape Tahitian pearl, 13.34 cts. t.w. pear-shape bicolor tourmaline, and 11.08 cts. t.w. round bicolor tourmaline, $42,000; Assael, info@assael.com 

Eve ring in 18k yellow gold has a 17.2 mm Tahitian pearl with 0.80 ct. t.w. tsavorite and 0.94 ct. t.w. diamonds, $27,000;

Erica Courtney, jilienne@ericacourtney.com