The Process, Pearl Animals
My “Pearl Animals” are truly unique, one-of-a-kind creations. I begin by sorting through thousands of uniquely shaped pearls to find the few that hint at an animal shape. This is an intuitive, playful process. The pearl best suited for one these little custom sculptures does not suggest an animal in its entirety. Just as a lover is most alluring when shrouded in an air of mystery, these pearls also “don’t give it all away on the first date.” They suggest a part of the animal. At their best, these pearls also reflect an aspect of the character of the animal: the fierceness of the wolf, the graceful movement of the dolphin, the playfulness of the otter. The rare pearl is envisioned as part of the final hand crafted design. Both the pearl and the creative design together bring the animal to life.
These creations are crafted with freshwater pearls from China and Japan as well as Tahitian and South Seas saltwater pearls. Baroque and freeform shapes are best suited for my designs. I also like to use Keshi pearls. These are ‘surprise’ pearls, ones that were not seeded in the farmed shellfish. I only like using the finest qualities; common commercial grades are no fun to play with.
Now the pearl is on my design table. A sketch pad, well-chewed-on pencils and charcoal refine the vision. A good jewelry designer must be able to envision the design in its 3-dimensional glory. I use the ‘Lost Wax Casting’ process. A variety of hard and soft waxes are carved and molded to shape an exact image of the gold or silver setting. This model is encased in plaster. The wax is then vaporized out of the mold using a high temperature kiln. I then cast gold or silver into this mold using a centrifuge. The mold is destroyed by quenching the plaster in water: Voila, a pearl animal is born.
But wait: there’s more work to be done. The rough casting has to be finished and refined, textured and polished. Final adjustments are made; I then carefully set the pearl into its gold mounting and bring to life one more one-of-a-kind pearl animal.
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