Captured Pearl

So I took a business trip to Los Angeles, California a few weeks ago and got the chance to see my two brothers whom I had not seen in two years.  During that trip, my brother James or his lovely wife, Alma handed me a box containing a large valuable undrilled cultured pearl that a friend in Japan had given James when he was single, many years ago.  He explained to me that gift giving is very important to the Japanese culture and that the Japanese enjoy giving significant and valuable gifts.  

Large Undrilled Pearl in Sterling Silver setting

Large Undrilled Pearl in Sterling Silver Setting

James’ friend told him that the pearl was for his future wife.  James held onto it for many years and when he married he did as he was asked and gave it to his beautiful wife.   James stressed to me how sentimentally important this pearl was and how I was to take the utmost care with it, twice or three times.  Typically, as I said before, I lack the courage to work with people’s sentimental objects. 

Why would he entrust something of such great importance to me?  Alma wanted to be able to wear it.  She wanted a setting to hold itthe pearl where it would be secure but still be loose inside and look artisan made. I like to think is my specialty, so my ego kicked in.  I drew a few sketches while Alma looked on and she decided on a design she liked. 

I was faced with setting a large undrilled pearl of unknown value and a prized possession belonging to two people I love.

The challenge with this setting was creating a way to secure the pearl while allowing it to move.  A pearl can not be heated or touched by any tools or it will leave a mark.  Pearls are very delicate and should not even come in contact with silver cleaner or body perfumes.

The setting had to be created of heavy enough gauge silver to not bend once the pearl was inside and all the heating and forming had to be done before the pearl was put to place. 
To create this setting, I soldered three sterling silver wires together in a sort of asterisk shape.  I used a ball end dap tool and a hammer to shape the the wires into a round interior where the pearl would sit.  One wire was extended into the loop or bail that the chain would run through. Then the wires were soldered together at the top. I did another decorative wire wrap at the top and fused by torch soldering. 
Setting the pearl was the most challenging part.  The bars had to be moved to each side to allow the pearl in and once in, very carefully had to be bend back into place without putting any force on the pearl.  The heavy gauge of this wire required me to work in stages moving the wires just a bit at a time. 
The result is as you can see above, quite beautiful. 

3 thoughts on “Captured Pearl

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