It is always exciting to set out to find the right pearls to fit the designs I have conjured up in my studio in Hampshire. Working from an idea about how the finished piece could be worn, as well as which pearls would work best in each design, I start with a list of items I would like to find. Inevitably I end up with some treasures I had no idea I would discover…
Key to sourcing pearls for new designs is to keep an open, but very focused, mind. A design is most likely to be successful if you can marry a good idea with the right components. This may mean adjusting the idea to fit something beautiful you find, or changing what you are looking for if the pearl you had settled on doesn’t quite work in the final design.
I was very inspired this March by visiting a small-scale research pearl farm near Sai Kung in Hong Kong. It is always thrilling to learn more about how pearls are grown and it was a good reminder of what a natural product the pearl is, made with very little human intervention. Pulling some shells up from the water to find beautiful pearls within was very exciting. Each design requires slightly different eyes to look at the pearls. For our bestselling Essential Pearl Necklace, which features a single pearl on a diamond cut chain (which sparkles), it is vital the pearl is of the best lustre and the surface is as clean as I can find. To achieve this I have to accept that most pearls are not an exact round, but to find as close to as possible. It is a small detail, but one that can make or break the design. The price of a perfect round, with good lustre and skin and of a decent size can be stratospheric.
Each time I visit Hong Kong I think I will not find anything new, and without fail come across something new that I can’t resist. This is how I started working with coin pearls, like those used in the Bedruthan pieces– I couldn’t resist the beautiful lustre and smooth pebble feel of the silver coin pearls I unearthed, which I had not seen before at the right price and right quality.
I have some exciting pearls coming in September which I saw on the first day of my trip. I had no idea what I would do with them but asked for them to be kept aside. Finally, on day four, I worked out how I could make them work beautifully in a new design. That is always the thrilling part – cross referencing ideas and treasure found until you hit the sweet spot and a new design is born.
Find out how living in Hong Kong inspired Claudia to start her jewellery business in our video:The Story Behind Claudia Bradby Jewellery