Pushing the boundaries of trends and design in fine jewellery
Although a perennial favourite by jewellers for their classic charms, pearls proved to be one of the most challenging materials to design. It didn’t help much that decades ago, pearls used in fine jewellery were mainly white and round, worn strictly on formal occasions. Today, though, pearl jewellery design is much more creative and flexible, thanks in part to influential brands like Jewelmer Joaillerie.
Established in 1979 by a French pearl farmer and a Filipino entrepreneur, Jewelmer is based in the archipelagic province of Palawan, Philippines, where it harvests South Sea pearls from its own farms. Palawan once belonged to an ancient trade route called the Pearl Road, where Chinese merchants traded with Philippine sea gypsies. It is called the country’s “last frontier” for its pristine seas and rich marine biodiversity.
It was in Palawan that Jewelmer began to produce golden pearls in 1983. “It was a big risk, for at that time, the golden pearl was a very rare and little-known gem,” says Gaelle Branellec, the brand’s current creative director. The company’s production finally reached commercial quantities in the late 1990s.
“The introduction of the golden pearl brought a certain warmth in the design of the pearl jewellery category. It opened new possibilities, inspiring designers to play around with coloured stones as well as more modern designs,” adds Branellec. In the past 10 years, golden pearls became especially popular in China, coinciding with the country’s economic rise.
Tastes in pearl jewellery design also evolved to appreciate shapes other than round. More and more people chose ovals and buttons, especially in strands, pendants, and rings. Fashion spurred further innovation and experimentation. Today, wearers of fine pearl jewellery tend to favour pieces that are versatile. “They are looking for unique, personal gems that they can match with different attires, both for everyday encounters and for elegant affairs,” explains Branellec.
Jewelmer’s Spring/Summer 2017 collections reflect this openness. La Parisienne, for instance, features keshi pearls, also known as ‘poppy seed pearls’ and well-loved for their exquisite and rare forms. Luminescence is part architectural and part abstract, taking inspiration from mosaics and dancing waves. Other collections include Guimard, which emphasises curvilinear forms, and Stella, which is minimalist and modern. The Pamana collection features brooches shaped after the Philippine islands and the Sarimanok, a mythical fowl-like creature.
For Jewelmer, every season means a new opportunity to create new pieces. “Our brand and our vision of beauty evolve with time. We constantly open unexplored horizons and offer new creations that unravel a charm yet to be discovered,” adds Branellec. “With each new collection, we offer the link between the tradition of French culture and the modernity of everyday life in Asia.”
Yet, even as its designs evolve with the times, Jewelmer’s philosophy has remained constant in its almost 40 years of existence. One staple is its commitment to quality — only the top two per cent of its pearl harvest are used in the brand’s collections. One testament to this patient perfectionism is the one-of-a-kind Palawan strand, which strings together flawless and perfectly round 16mm to 18mm pearls. It took 37 years to complete the piece.
This focus on quality is connected to a tradition of craftsmanship, passed on from Place Vendôme in Paris. “Perfection is the minimum requested to serve the perfection of the pearl. Employing classic high jewellery techniques, our craftsmen give life to pieces that accentuate the interplay of light and movement, perceived from different angles,” says Branellec.
The company’s designs also consistently reflect both French and Filipino heritage. Branellec adds: “The fusion of ideas from our multi-cultural team of Filipino and European designers expresses the passion, creative innovation, and craftsmanship that characterise our brand. By bringing together multiple talents and perspectives, through each jewellery creation, we bring to life a piece of a dream.
STYLE FILE: GAELLE BRANELLEC
Creative Director, Jewelmer Joaillerie
What jewellery do you wear every day?
I consider my South Sea pearl stud earrings as the jewellery equivalent of the little black dress, a versatile piece that I wear every day. My Eternity bangle is a symbol of continuity and the cycle of life. My Mother and Child pendant reminds me of the tenderness and power of a mother’s love.
Apart from pearls, what jewellery material do you like most?
Diamonds and gold.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’ve always favoured clothes that are comfortable, chic, and casual.
What’s your favourite city in the world and why?
I’d have to say it’s Paris — it’s full of light, vibrancy, and creativity. When you walk in the street, you see a piece of history. That’s the beauty of Paris: anywhere you look, there is always art and life. There’s always something new happening. You sit there and you’re immersed in so many different cultures, you see people from all walks of life, you encounter the romance of Paris.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I like being surrounded by nature. The flowers, the light, and the wind relax me. Until I was two years old, I grew up on a boat. I think it must have had an effect on me. Subconsciously, I think, every time I see the horizon, that’s when I realise how small we are and how big the universe is. Relaxation, for me, involves reconnecting with nature. That, and also being with my son.