Pearl by Pearl, She Built a Jewelry Career

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LONDON — Earlier than her profitable, if considerably area of interest, profession, the Hungarian-born pearl stringer Renata Terjeki was by no means a fan of pearls.

“I never wanted to string,” mentioned Ms. Terjeki, 47, in a latest video interview from her small, windowless, lamp-lit workshop, tucked within the basement of the posh vintage jeweler Bentley & Skinner on London’s bustling Piccadilly.

To her thoughts, pearl necklaces had been the protect of individuals over 80, and stringing was a simple pursuit: “I assumed all they do is just chuck the pearls on a string, tie it somehow, and that’s it,” she mentioned.

At this time, Ms. Terjeki is entrusted with a few of the world’s most beautiful pearl jewellery, to be restrung, repaired and sometimes redesigned.

Discretion “is an unspoken rule in the trade,” mentioned Ms. Terjeki, who is commonly required to signal confidentiality agreements when engaged on high-end items. However shoppers she will title embody the public sale homes Bonhams and Sotheby’s, and the jewellery emporiums Moussaieff and Bentley & Skinner. Non-public shoppers have included a daughter of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, (for whom she strung a prayer-bead-like gold and pearl necklace one Christmas), and European royalty.

Virtually all discover her through phrase of mouth.

In 2015, Ms. Terjeki, opened an Instagram account underneath the moniker @stringing_along. She wished to right the misconceptions round pearl stringing that she herself had harbored. Among the many works on show there are woven pearl watch straps, black diamond idler tassels, gemstone curtain ornaments and an vintage Cartier bag coated in tiny pearls.

Opposite to what one would possibly count on, treasured and semiprecious stone beads, and sometimes even coral, make up an estimated 35 to 40 % of Ms. Terjeki’s work, she mentioned. (“It’s the same technique,” she mentioned. “Just a different material.”) And even ribbon is a part of her repertoire. It’s historically a pearl stringer’s job to wind velvet, hair-colored ribbons in regards to the frames of some tiaras, she mentioned.

So far, her Instagram feed has greater than 17,000 followers, some little question drawn by the career’s uncommon nature: Skilled pearl stringers are arduous to return by.

“She is one of a dwindling number of independent practitioners keeping alive this valuable skill,” mentioned Emily Barber, director of jewellery at Bonhams UK — an public sale home that has labored with Ms. Terjeki for 12 years. (“Renata is the doyenne of pearl stringers,” she mentioned.)

Ms. Terjeki estimates there are solely a handful of high-level pearl stringers left in London.

This shortage is probably going the results of a shift away from the common carrying of costly, pure pearls, mentioned Kristian Spofforth, head of division, Sotheby’s jewellery, London. Within the early twentieth century, when pure pearls had been at their peak, “it’s something you got done regularly,” he mentioned. This present day, he mentioned, extra individuals are carrying cultured pearls or much less helpful pearls.

“Perfecting it and doing it well is remarkably difficult,” he mentioned of the work.

Ms. Terjeki came across the career by likelihood, when a veteran stringer provided her an apprenticeship, and partially credit her success to her background as a goldsmith.

In Budapest, she studied underneath a grasp goldsmith, Rezso Ludvig, an artist well-known inside Hungarian jewellery circles for restoring the Hungarian crown jewels, she mentioned. His insistence that each one college students be taught to craft all the things by hand utilizing solely essentially the most primary instruments may be seen in her work at this time.

Although specialist instruments exist, her personal are easy. And, aside from her drill and model, all match right into a wood field she carries along with her when the worth of a chunk means she’s required to string elsewhere.

Among the many few objects organized inside, mentioned Ms. Terjeki, may be discovered a “gimp” — a tiny coil of steel that stops the pearl from rubbing towards the clasp, a 0.23-millimeter needle — the slimmest obtainable — for threading, and a bit of a pink cotton desk runner introduced from a housewares retailer. (The colour permits her to see the pearls clearly, and the material “has little grooves, which stops the pearls rolling,” she mentioned.) Knots are tied with an “ordinary” needle that slots right into a rounded wood deal with, she mentioned. And as for her thread, although some use silk, Ms. Terjeki favors nylon: In contrast to silk, nylon “is durable, so the knot stays nice and neat,” she mentioned.

Although she declined to offer a base value due to the various variables (principally whether or not the consumer is commerce or non-public, the worth of the piece and the time it should take), her work ranges extensively in price and complexity.

At one finish of the size are single-row necklaces. On the different are plaited sautoirs — the French title for lengthy necklaces fashioned of woven ropes of pearls with wires crisscrossing inside that always culminate in a number of tassels. Because the work can require as much as 10 hours a day of full focus for 3 weeks to a month, she mentioned, the fee can rise to a couple thousand kilos.

Along with its intricacy, the time spent on a sautoir can rely on the dimensions of its pearls.

“Sometimes the pearl hole, and the pearl itself, is so tiny even my thinnest needle won’t go through,” Ms. Terjeki mentioned.

Her answer: Break up the nylon thread into its part strands and, taking the slimmest, harden it with a minuscule dab of robust glue and slide it via the pearls like a needle. That’s why she is nearsighted, she mentioned. “I don’t need glasses for work, but I do need glasses for driving, watching a movie, because I stare at everything so close all day long.”

Time restrictions and the worth of a chunk can add to the someday high-pressure nature of her job, mentioned Ms. Terjeki, who was as soon as required to finish a five-row pure pearl necklace value over £1 million in solely two hours whereas seated beside a bodyguard within the SSEF pearl lab in Zurich.

“With a 17th-century necklace, I can’t just go and get another one,” she mentioned.

However this offers the job its enchantment.

“I like challenges,” mentioned Ms. Terjeki, whose maxim is “nothing is impossible” and who has no plans to retire.

At this time, pearl stringing is her ardour, she mentioned. “I don’t know if I could live without it.”

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