Pearls have long been synonymous with symbolizing class, but they've also received a reputation for being outdated in the process. Jewelry designers, like Toronto-based Laurie Fleming, is just one of the artisans working to change that. In honor of June, the pearl birthstone month, we asked Laurie Fleming to teach us about the famous gem and to talk to us about how jewelry designers are using pearls in an artfully modern way.
What's the difference between pearls and mother of pearl?
Mother of pearl comes from the shell of the oyster (the mother of the pearls). Pearls are the round or irregular shaped layers of nacre built around a grain of sand. The sand (or other object) has iridescent layers formed around it by the oyster because it's something of an irritant to the creature when it enters the oyster lip. What it produces is super luminous and rare to find in nature!
Mother of pearl is made of the same nacre as pearls and is equally as beautiful and full of color. Both have been coveted and used in adornment for thousands of years.
Were pearls always an integral part of your designs?
Mother of pearl was not always the main element of my designs. When I first started making jewellery I used a ton of different materials, including pearls.
What initially drew you to the stone?
I started to want to control more of the way stones were cut for various designs. I couldn't achieve some of the custom faceting I wanted on different gems, so I experimented with a few and landed on mother of pearl. It was just through trial and chance that I discovered something hidden and new! Just seeing how incredibly detailed it was, I knew it was something rare and special I should highlight in the pieces.
Tell me a bit about the use of pearls in your work.
I use mother of pearl in a bit of an unconventional way. Mother of pearl has been used in inlay and carving work since ancient times, applied across surfaces on jewelry, furniture, instruments, utensils, and ornamental pieces. But, you never see it faceted!
When you cut facets on mother of pearl, it becomes beautifully three-dimensional and transforms into something ethereal. When wearing the piece it really comes alive; you can see the light and all the rainbow hues move from facet to facet.
Just like pearls, the more you wear your mother of pearl, the more lustrous it becomes. Your skin's natural oils absorb into the stones and bring out a gorgeous glow and all the depth of the color! It's like a tiny world inside each stone and it becomes so personalized the more you wear it.
Shop our entire collection of modern pearl jewelry here!