By Melissa Pearce
It is the rich quality of the nacre that gives Australian South Sea pearls such an iridescent play of colours. The shimmering lustre of these cultured pearls is the perfect expression of femininity. Here, some of the country's top jewellery designers describe how Australian pearls have inspired some of their most recent creations.
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Autore unveiled its new Orchid collection at Baselworld, and founder Rosario Autore describes the florid influences behind the pieces: "Our studio's inspiration was sparked by the exotic nature of orchids that inhabit the harsh Australian landscape, of which there are more than 800 species. We have tried to re-imagine their individual colours and shapes by combining South Sea pearls and strikingly coloured gemstones." Autore's goal was to mirror the natural colours found in the petals and stems of orchids, which was achieved with the use of subtle movement and graduated coloured gemstones.
Paspaley is a name with an 80-year pearling history. While the classic strand is its hallmark, the third-generation family company also prizes innovative and tactile contemporary design. Its latest collection, Touchstone, captures the wild tropical environment of the remote Kimberley Coast in North-Western Australia through a palette rich with vibrant rubies and tsavorites.
As the world's largest source of the finest quality Australian pearls, Paspaley's atelier pays heed to its heritage while applying novel updates to time-honoured motifs. The Lavalier fine jewellery collection is an homage to a pendant popularised by the Duchesse de la Vallière, a mistress of King Louis XIV, featuring delicate fine mesh gold chains encasing pearls - pieces that can be customised by pearl choice.
Kailis is a brand exploring elements of the natural world for emotive effect. Mark Majzner, general manager, describes its studio's latest creative objective: "When designing the new Flame suite, we were striving for the perfect balance of sculptural design and majestic aura. The design evokes the elegant movement of the fire element to imbue its owner with a feeling of power." The suite features rose gold and pink diamonds alongside South Sea pearls. Kailis, founded in the mid 1970s in Broome, Western Australia, uses only untreated South Sea pearls. A special design flourish to look out for on each piece of Kailis jewellery is a hidden black diamond.
Linneys, Perth's famous design house, has recently celebrated Justin Linney's first collection as creative director of the family brand. Beautiful Reflections marries rare coloured gemstones, diamonds and pearls, not to mention allowing Western Australian gold to shine as its own star component. Freeform and sculptural approaches reflect the rugged coastlines of the Indian Ocean, and Linneys craftsmen also treat baroque pearls with a deftness that emphasises their organic beauty.
Sydney-based Jan Logan is another icon of the Australian pearl industry known for her versatile, modern pieces. Jan, who marked 25 years in fine jewellery last year, likes to mix pearls with modern materials such as leather or gold wire - with black and white a favourite colour combination - as well as to layer chains. Her best-selling Kelly pearl necklace is a cool rethink of a strand of pearls that features one pearl strung together with matte onyx beads. Unique combinations and unexpected pieces are all on view in the 2015 collection, all pointing to Jan's understated and effortless take on modern luxe.