Designing with Keshi Pearls – How Shape, Luster, & Color Create Magnificence￼
Keshi pearls, held with esteem and reverence by pearl lovers worldwide, were once mistakenly ignored by the cultured pearl industry who originally sought only perfectly round pearls. Keshis are composed of 100% nacre, the substance that creates the beautiful luster of pearls. Beloved for this extreme glow and organic style, keshi pearls are a dream for fine jewelry designers. Their distinctive shapes, their incredible luster, and their beautiful colors conjure a continual stream of inspiration.
Assael’s Senior Vice President and designer, Peggy Grosz, shares her affinity for designing with keshi pearls. “Just looking at a handful of keshis is magical. It stirs so many fabulous ideas for me,” says Grosz. “And no two keshi pearls are exactly alike, so every piece of jewelry we create with keshis is a truly one-of-a-kind, wearable work of art.”
Keshi Pearls Have Distinctive Shapes & Sizes
Keshi pearls all have distinctive shapes and sizes. They are as unique as snowflakes, no two being exactly the same. They form as a result of pearl cultivation but on the outer lip of the oyster, as opposed to the pearl forming inside the soft mantle tissue of the oyster. (For more on how pearls are formed, click here.) Keshis grow or form naturally when the oyster secretes too much nacre, causing them to develop in the most organic and beautiful of shapes.
These shapes and sizes hold worlds of inspiration for jewelry designers. They can spark creativity and make new silhouettes possible. “It almost feels like you are painting with them in 3D,” says Grosz. “Keshis have so many unique shapes they open up an entirely different world of possibilities. We can use them to design jewelry that cannot be made with other types of pearls.”
The shapes of keshi pearls can even be curved, little arcs that can cup, caress, or enhance a round pearl or gemstone. “With Keshis, I can accomplish things that I can’t with traditional round or flat pearls,” says Grosz. Assael’s Morganite Keshi Flower Earrings are a great example. The keshi pearls form the petals of the flower motif, while the faceted morganite gem creates the center of the flower. This recreation of Nature is made possible by the unique shapes of the keshi pearls.
Sean Gilson for Assael’s “Fairy Blossom” earrings (pictured in feature image at top) feature keshi pearls that lightly dance above a large South Sea baroque pearl. The keshis have movement and bring an ethereal, whimsical style to the design.
Sometimes, as opposed to inspiring a particular design, keshi pearls also create the design. The keshis themselves are Nature’s own designs, Mother Nature’s works of art. The Assael three drop keshi earrings (pictured above) are a great example. The keshi pearls become the design motif. Pairing keshis is a great feat in itself, and having three graduated pairs of the same profile makes them particularly difficult to accomplish.
Assael has one of the largest inventories of fine quality pearls in the world, certainly the largest in North America. Grosz explains the value of having such a vast assortment of high quality keshi pearls – “With a huge inventory of these incredible, organically shaped pearls, I can often find the shape that I am looking for to complete a particular design. It’s still a challenge, though!”
Keshi Pearls Have Incredibly High Luster
Keshi pearls are known for having extremely high luster, that magical soft glow that we all love about pearls. Keshis are 100% nacre because they form with no nucleus, so there is nothing inside the keshi pearl to block the reflection or refraction of light, giving them a beautiful iridescent quality. For a fine jewelry designer, knowing that these pearls are all nacre creates the utmost respect. And for the wearer/owner, knowing this creates an even deeper connection to nature, affecting how you feel about owning and wearing keshi pearls.
“Sometimes the luster in keshi pearls is so strong, so present, that the effect is similar to precious gemstones – the keshi pearls give off a radiance like the brilliance of a faceted gem,” says Grosz. Typically, in fine jewelry, gems sparkle, and their reflections play off each other, bouncing light around to thrill the eye. This can also happen with keshi pearls due to the high luster and the often uneven shapes that cause light to bounce off the pearl’s surface.
Some gemstones are also “chatoyant,” meaning that they have an optical reflectance effect – think of cat’s eye or moonstone as examples. Sometimes keshi pearls have that effect – they can almost look chatoyant. That chatoyancy can also inspire unique jewelry designs. Pairing keshis that have incredible luster can create a magnificent shining strand for those who love the glow and how it reflects on the skin or for those who admire the organic shapes of keshi pearls.
Keshi Pearls Are Created In The Same Varieties And Colors As Other Pearls
Keshi pearls only form in nacreous pearls, and they form, as mentioned above, on the outer lip of the oyster during the cultivation process. Keshis grow in the same color as the oyster’s mother of pearl lining; therefore, keshi pearls are created in the same color varieties as other pearls – variations of white keshis come from the oysters that produce South Sea White Pearls and the smaller Japanese Akoya, golden keshis come from the oyster that creates Golden South Sea Pearls, darker hues from Tahitian Black Pearls and Fijian Pearls.
“When that kind of deep luster is present in a curved or much more organic shape, the eye can read color differently,” says Grosz. “Shadows within keshi pearls can affect the look of the color, giving me even more colorful undertones to play with as I design.”
Within its large inventory, Assael has many keshi pearls, and as they are laid out, the eye starts looking for similarities for pairing or designing. Assael only uses keshis within the same pearl variety when matching color, texture, and luster is required. Keep an eye out for new Assael designs that start mixing varieties and colors of keshi pearls for a completely unique look.
Keshis can have various surfaces, some flat or level, some valleys with rounded curves – but the smoothness of the surface is still important for quality. The keshis still need to be blemish-free for maximum luster and quality. The quality or value of a keshi is judged by the same factors as other pearls – size, luster, surface cleanliness, shape, color. For more information on how to judge the quality of pearls, click here.
Difference Between Keshi Pearls And Baroque Pearls
It is important to briefly note that not all baroque pearls are keshi pearls. Pearls known simply as “baroque” are nacreous pearls that form around a nucleus in non-round or baroque shapes. While the shapes of cultured baroques can be very organic and unique, they are not keshi pearls. As mentioned above, keshi pearls are 100% nacre and form on the lip of the oyster with no nucleus. Baroque pearls form around a nucleus in the soft mantle tissue of the oyster and can grow to very large sizes.
The truth is keshi pearls are happy accidents of nature. 100% pure nacre. 100% shine. There are also no two identical pieces of keshi pearl jewelry. Even when a design concept is replicated, the jewelry is distinctive and unique. Each keshi pearl and each keshi pearl design is like a fingerprint – very individual to their owners. Keshi fans cherish this and tend to become collectors. Explore a wide variety of keshi pearls style here – happy treasure hunting!
Feature image at top – Clockwise from Upper Left – South Sea Baroque and Keshi Pearl “Fairy Blossom” Earrings by Sean Gilson for Assael, Assael MultiColor Golden Keshi South Sea Pearl Necklaces (2), Fendi F/W 2022-23, Assael Long Keshi Pearl Earrings with Diamonds, Model Wearing the Fairy Blossom earrings by Sean Gilson for Assael
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