Pearl and Coral Jewelry Excellence – Innovation and Craftsmanship Matter
Since the beginning of civilization, jewelry has been beloved for more than its appearance. The value of the precious materials, their deeper cultural and spiritual connotations, and the artistry required to create the jewels have always been a part of the perceived worth of truly fine jewelry. Here, we will explore some of the specific innovations and integrity of craftsmanship that make Assael’s magnificent pearls and exquisite coral so much more than meets the eye.
When we look at any piece of jewelry, art, furniture, textile, or anything that evokes an aesthetic reaction, there are many factors at play that are responsible for creating your reaction. Right away, when you look at something, you have an opinion, or you are attracted or repelled immediately. There are so many things that go into an object that the eye sees all together at the same time – the mind cannot process these factors as quickly as your eye can see or and take in the total picture. Your eye sees quickly, and you have an immediate response or opinion, an attraction or lack thereof. What goes into a beautiful piece of jewelry is certainly far more than the eye will immediately comprehend.
Anyone familiar with the Assael brand (including subscribers to this blog) knows that the most obvious and immediate visual impression of our jewelry is created by either our magnificent pearls or our exquisite corals (sometimes both). The supreme quality of the gems is a well-known Assael trademark. How these jewels are fashioned, presented, mounted, or set is what we will explore here.
Dimensions & Pairings – Unique Gemstone Settings
Good design must be well thought-out beyond just form and color, whether the jewelry contains precious metal or a combination of precious metals and gemstones or any other materials (including surprising and unusual elements). The materials used must be strong enough, lasting, and appropriate for the chosen gem. Most of Assael’s jewels are handmade with precious metals such as 18K gold or platinum. From the shape of a prong or bezel to the polish when viewed under magnification, every element of a piece of Assael jewelry contributes to the aforementioned immediate reaction to its aesthetic.
One example of such thoughtful design and craftsmanship is something Assael has become known for – the voluptuous forms of our “Pairings” rings. In the Pairings collection, two elements are combined in unusual and delightful ways, typically a pearl with a colored gemstone or a unique cut of coral with a faceted gem. These rings have distinct dimension because the precious metal in the shank and the setting changes shape as it wraps the finger – from under the hand to the sides, tapering back up to the pearls and stones. Pairings rings also have a pleasant weightiness while being comfortable to wear and are not likely to turn on your hand.
Also, as the collage above illustrates, each gemstone in the Pairings rings is set differently with respect to the shape or cut of the gem itself. For example, the fantasy cut of the stone in the Tahitian and Morganite Pairings ring is mounted with neither a classic bezel, nor a prong. The gem is uniquely held, and the scallop of the mounting reinforces the roundness of the elements.
The Blue Tahitian Pearl and Vivid Aquamarine Pairings Ring features frames around the four corners of the aquamarine and a round metal “stand” or base for the pearl, once again highlighting the form and colors of the pearl and the gemstone.
Hidden Hardware – Invisible, Minimal Connections
In great design, every part of the piece of jewelry and its construction is meticulously considered. Even the traditional design concept of putting gemstones, such as diamonds, between other gems requires more than what meets the eye. For our three and five drop pearl earring series (as shown in the collage above), the metal ring connections between the diamonds and the pearls are hidden, unlike most examples of this jewelry design concept. For the Assael luxury aesthetic, fittings or connections must be hidden, unless they are an integral part of the design. In this way, the view of the gems is unobstructed, uncluttered, allowing the beauty of the design to be the focus, not the necessary hardware.
Another example where metal must be used to secure a gem but would not be attractive is the Golden South Sea Pearl and Bi-Color Tourmaline Ring. The pearl appears to be magically held. The minimized use of (and hiding of) metal usually requires a higher level of labor, including both skill and time. But when the elements come together in such a beautiful way, the extra work and time are well worth it.
A completely different example of hiding metal with skill appears in the Tahitian Pearl and Rhombus Morganite Drop Earrings. The soft pink morganites are transparent, yet their settings are not visible as you look at the front of the earring. The traditional wires of the setting are cleverly placed along the junctures of facets where they will not reflect back into the stone and be visible. It is a trick to the eye, but one most craftspeople would not know how to accomplish. The result is that you can truly appreciate the incredible beauty of the gemstone.
The Assael Angel Skin Coral, Gray Chalcedony, and Diamon pinky ring (see feature image above) is another unique example of our craftsmanship. Note the row of diamonds that seemingly have no metal between them. The diamonds seem to float atop the rose gold shank and the Chalcedony and Angel Skin Coral seem to float atop the lovely sparkling stones.
Specificity – Left & Right Earrings
The artistry and craftsmanship of Assael can also be seen in the variety of earrings that are left or right ear specific. Many button earrings (or other on-the-lobe styles) are purposely designed with the orientation towards the face so that the earrings frame the face nicely. Often the bulk of the earring will move up the earlobe in a flattering way. In the Assael South Sea Pearl and Aquamarine earrings shown on the model above, the pearl is placed near the face and the marquise aquamarines travel both up and along the lobe. The effect, when worn on the proper left and right earlobes, is striking and very attractive, allowing the luster of the pearl to beautifully adorn the skin of the face. Similarly, the Assael Fijian Pearl and Watermelon Tourmaline earrings have four graduated Fijian pearls along the rectangular or lozenge shape of the watermelon tourmaline. The pearls get slightly larger as they go up the lobe in a very becoming way.
Any lover of large pearls would like to be able to wear a sizeable pearl earring with one pearl on the ear and another pearl dropping below the ear. (See the Tahitian Double Trouble pearl earring in the image above.) But traditionally, there have been two issues with this concept. Normally, a large pearl holding another large pearl will tend to fall forward on the ear. Assael’s platinum or gold earring backings, each hand-formed to the shape of the particular pearl, are asymmetric and canted, making them left and right ear specific. This is true of many Assael earrings.
The other issue with double pearl drop earrings is that to have flexibility or to allow motion, most jewelers have to use metal rings between the pearls. It requires expertise and skill to create a hidden mechanism that attaches two sizeable pearls with only a simple wire, while still allowing movement. The overall result is a beautifully classic, large pearl earring that exudes sophistication and can be worn with almost anything in your wardrobe.
Superlative Materials – Magnificent Pearls, Exquisite Coral
Another aspect of luxury jewelry is the materials themselves. Assael’s multi-decade relationships with pearl farmers have afforded us first choice and premier access to the highest quality pearls. Our naturally beautiful responsibly sourced coral comes from one of the most esteemed coral families in the world, Liverino.
When choosing pearls for Assael’s designs or creating strands of such precious materials, a significant amount of time and expertise is invested in searching for the perfect hues that work well together. Our dedicated pearl experts have extraordinary eyes for matching color, luster, and nacre. In addition, our longtime, in-house master stringer (of more than three decades) ensures that every strand is impeccable.
Assael’s Bicolor Tourmaline and Tahitian Pearl earrings are a good example of combining the natural color tones of pearls with gemstones. The designer loved the distinct colors of the large rectangular bi-color tourmaline gems (over 65 carats!!), as well as the way they play with the green and pink undertones of the natural color Tahitian pearls. The luscious stones gently coax the colors from the pearls. A minimal amount of metal was used in the stone setting to connect the elements, avoiding distraction from the remarkable colors. Additionally, these stones move independently of the pearls, adding an exciting sense of movement and ease when the earrings are worn.
The Assael Angel Skin Coral, Detachable Sunset Carnelian, and Diamond Earrings also showcase creative craftsmanship. First the materials themselves are spectacular – the very finest of vintage responsibly sourced Angel Skin Coral matches beautifully with this distinctive “sunset” carnelian. Juxtaposing the round corals with the square which holds the naturally striped carnelian allows these gems to highlight the beauty of each other in a soft yet powerful pair of earrings. We purposely chose single cut diamonds to “frame” the carnelian because they have less scintillation, causing the diamonds to play well with the coral and the sunset chalcedony. The setting of the diamonds is minimal, as well, and the 18K rose gold enhances the femininity of the overall aesthetic.
Bubbles – Innovative Design & Manufacturing
Good design goes beyond a sketch. A thoughtful, excellent design takes into consideration many of the important factors referenced above – dimensionality, specificity, and wearability.
When Assael wanted to offer fresh new pearl jewelry styles, they brought in renowned designer and goldsmith Sean Gilson to create a series of exciting pieces – the Bubbles collection is the result. Designing “out of the box,” using a new technique that was not previously used with pearls, enabled Gilson to create Assael’s most successful collection. The visual of round lustrous orbs put together in asymmetrical shapes feels modern and voluptuous, but only because the pearls are attached to each other, as opposed to using the traditional one setting per pearl manufacturing approach. The pearls seem to float like literal bubbles. This is achieved with accuracy and precision in fitting the pearls together. Each style must be balanced so that strength is provided via the central setting. The mechanical joining of the pearls is visible only as a whisper of a touch. This technique, along with Gilson’s vision, has enabled him to design everything from a simple two or three pearl Bubble ring to rings of seven or eight pearls, as well as choker length pearl Bubble necklaces with diamonds… Each of these styles has an incredibly strong yet soft presence and compositions that would not be possible without his expertise.
The advantage of Bubbles in the earring category is that they can extend below the ear with no visible metal. In fact, the absence of metal in the Bubble collection puts pearls in the spotlight like no other collection of pearl jewelry. Even when Gilson adds the sparkle of old European cut diamonds to a Bubble design, it is done as a highlight, with the stones just peeking from between the pearls, again putting pearls center stage.
The pearl strand that you may have owned for years suddenly looks more modern when worn with a Bubble pair of earrings or a Bubble ring or bracelet. The Bubble collection will continue to grow and evolve in all major categories – rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets – in white South Sea and Tahitian pearls, as well as in precious coral.
These points of craftsmanship, along with many others (too numerous for one blog post), are a large part of what makes Assael’s pieces truly magnificent. So, the next time you fall in love with a piece of jewelry, stop for a few moments to look at the details for further appreciation or to gain a greater understanding of the jewel’s appeal.
Feature image at top – Clockwise from upper right – Assael Angel Skin Coral, Chalcedony, and Diamond ring, Multi-Bubble South Sea and Akoya Pearl ring by Sean Gilson for Assael, Master Goldsmith Sean Gilson at work in his studio, The Princess Cushion ring by Assael, jewelers workbench, strands of responsibly sourced Sardinian Coral, tray of matching pearls ready to be crafted into earrings
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