Pearls were the gems first coveted by prehistoric peoples worldwide. As civilizations progressed, pearl jewelry became the adornment of choice for the upper echelons of society. Due to their rarity and global demand, only royalty could afford them, and in several societies ownership was even restricted by law. Perhaps the most illustrious royal to wear pearls was Elizabeth I of England. Dubbed the “Pearl Queen” for her manic obsession with pearls, Elizabeth I solicited multiple corsairs to raid Spanish ships in search of plundered New World pearls. She wore thousands of pearls at a time to convey not only her purity and devotion to her role, but more importantly, her immense wealth and domination over what was the most powerful fleet in the world.
In the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, as well as places such as Japan, Philippines, Mexico and Australia, free diving for pearls was once a major industry. Native Americans harvested pearls from lakes and rivers in Tennessee and Mississippi. Today, pearls used in the jewelry industry are cultured pearls, either in freshwater or saltwater.
Some types of pearls we use:
Akoya pearls are the classic salt water cultured pearls, revered for over 100 years. The finest specimens emanate a gorgeous glow unmatched in other cultured pearl varieties.
Tahitian pearls are salt water cultured pearls grown in small batches in French Polynesia. Tahitian pearls are grown in the black-lipped pearl mollusks native to this part of the world. These naturally dark in color pearls are some of the most sought after in the world.
The word “keshi” is Japanese for poppy seed. These are accidental pearls that grow next to larger pearls in the same mollusk, as a byproduct of the culturing process. They grow without a nucleus, so they are pure nacre, and tend to be baroque shapes. These rare pearls are favored for their high luster, delicate proportions and organic shapes.
Some gemstones I work with:
Tourmalines have the largest color range of any gem species, naturally occurring in shades of almost all hues. The name tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word ‘toramalli’, which means ‘stone with many colors’. There are several species of tourmalines, and several color varieties within each species, all caused by trace elements. Because tourmalines exist in so many colors they were often mistaken for other gems, tourmalines were not recognized as their own species until the 1800s. In the late 1800s the Empress Dowager Cixi was one of the major collectors of pink tourmaline, and had the gemstones fashioned into elaborate jewelry, carved snuff bottles and other ornaments. Paraiba tourmaline is now widely considered to be the most expensive gemstone on the market, with only one paraiba mined for every 10,000 diamonds. We love tourmalines for their amazing color spectrum, color zoning (multiple colors in one stone), and stunning optical effects.
Emerald and aquamarine are members of the Beryl family, and they are each defined by their green and blue colors respectively.
Pliny the Elder wrote about emerald’s lush hue: “Nothing greens greener”, and perhaps because of this emeralds have been treasured by cultures the world over for thousands of years. The first known emerald mines were recorded in ancient Egypt, where later Cleopatra adorned herself and her palace with emeralds, and gave them as gifts to visiting dignitaries as displays of her power and wealth. In ancient Incan, Aztec, and Muiscas cultures, emeralds were offered as gifts to the gods, and also factored into spiritual beliefs. We are inspired by the unique bi-phase and tri-phase inclusions that give many emeralds their personality, referred to by the industry as ‘jardin’ - French for garden.
The name aquamarine comes from Latin for ‘seawater’, and thus most of its folklore in western cultures is connected to the ocean, and its association with Neptune in Roman and Greek mythology. Its color is due to trace amounts of ferrous iron. We love aquamarine’s vitreous luster particularly when mirror-cut.
Ruby and sapphire are both gems of the mineral corundum. Red corundums are rubies, blue and all other color corundums are sapphires. Trace elements in the minerals are what produce the different colors.
In Sanskrit, the word for ruby means “king of gems”.
In ancient Burma, rubies were the stone of soldiers, for they were believed to impart invulnerability on the wearer. Sapphires have long been associated with spirituality and mysticism. Individuals reportedly often wore sapphires when consulting with the Oracle at Delphi. We love the shiny rutile needles, referred to as silk, that can form in rubies and sapphires.
Diamonds are the only gemstones formed from a single element, carbon. They form around 100 miles deep in the earth under extremely high temperature and pressure and then are forced up to the surface. Diamonds have been appreciated all over the world, beginning in ancient India where the oldest known diamond mines existed. Diamonds featured in personal adornments and religious sculptures, where they were used as eyes in statues of Hindu deities at temples. Many of the diamonds used in Camille Beinhorn pieces are reclaimed antique diamonds.
Ask any jeweler or gem connoisseur what their favorite gemstone is and they will likely reply spinel. This is for their intensity and variety of hues (red, orange, pink, purple, grey and blue), their brilliance, and their crystal. Like diamonds, spinels are singly refractive and often very transparent, making them sparkle brightly. Raw spinel crystals are so beautiful in their rough state that they are referred to as nat thwe or “spirit-polished” in Myanmar, where many are found. Throughout history, spinels were mistaken for rubies and called Balas rubies. Many illustrious “rubies” are actually spinels, such as the “Timur Ruby” and the “Black Prince’s Ruby,” both in the Crown Jewels. It is only because of modern gemological equipment that we can distinguish between ruby and spinel. We truly love spinels, especially the metallic grey and fuchsia hues.
Like a portal to the ancient world, our gold is 22 karat, the revered alloy used in classical handmade jewelry fabrication worldwide. Pure gold is mixed with exact small proportions of silver and copper to create 22 karat - lustrous, malleable and durable.
Pearls: Cultured Pearl Association of America
Gemstones: Gemological Institute of America, International Gem Society