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Flame On, You Crazy Pearl

Inspiration in a rare visual phenomenon

Anyone who’s followed my work knows I love pearls. Their juicy shapes, their light-reflective luster- these characteristics fire my ideas. I love to use pearls in modern designs that allow their glowing organic shapes to tell their own story.

Most pearls are grown in bivalve mollusks like oysters or mussels. A pearl is the result of the creature’s effort to soothe itself from an irritant- sort of a “princess and the pea” thing. The process begins when a bit of sand or grit gets caught inside the mollusk’s shell. The soft-bodied sea creature covers it with successive layers of material, called “nacre,” to round out the itchy edges in an effort to reduce the irritation. Over time, the layers of nacre harden into what we value as a pearl.

This process occurs naturally in the wild, but we humans- in love with shiny objects such as we are- have developed ways to grow pearls deliberately through our intervention. Pearl farmers raise large beds of pearl-producing mollusks, seeding them with small round stones or other shapes to jump-start the natural pearl production process. This is the foundation of what we refer to as “cultured pearls,” which many of us wear today.

Recently I discovered another pearl variety that grows only in nature, the Melo Melo Pearl.

These pearls, which start out essentially the same way as other pearls, grow only in the Melo Melo snail, a spiral-shelled mollusk found in the South China Sea.