As you’d expect from the luxury jewellery brand, Tiffany & Co.’s new Bird On A Pearl collection is more than just a flight of fantasy. The exclusive capsule, crafted using some of the world’s rarest saltwater pearls, pays tribute to master jeweller Jean Schlumberger’s feathered motif from his iconic Bird on a Rock brooch. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Bird On A Pearl collection.
Tiffany & Co. may be a house famously associated with diamonds (not for nothing does Marylin Monroe breathily namecheck the brand in her song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend), but its new Bird On A Pearl collection is a gleaming success. Founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, who was a man with a passion for rare and exquisite jewels of all kinds, including pearls, would certainly approve.
It was Charles Lewis who appointed the respected mineralogist George Frederick Kunz (author of the definitive tome, The Book of the Pearl, which is still highly regarded today) as Tiffany & Co.’s chief gemmologist in 1879 and charged him with scouring the United States for native treasures like rose-tinted pearls from the Mississippi River Valley. Kunz was also instrumental in naming and promoting new species of colourful gemstones for the brand, including Kunzite (a glassy pink stone he christened for himself) and Morganite (a peachy gem named after the banking magnate, J.P. Morgan). In the 1960s and 70s, Tiffany & Co. also named and introduced deep blue Tanzanites and vivid green Tsavorites to the world, cementing its position as the authority on showstopping gems.
Amongst the most valuable gems in Tiffany & Co.’s collection, pearls have ranked right alongside many of its storied diamond jewels. In 1860, Charles Lewis sold a one-of-a-kind pink 23.25 carat freshwater pearl found in New Jersey to Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, which the couple renamed the ‘Queen Pearl’. At the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, an exposition designed to herald America’s arrival as the world’s new cultural powerhouse, Tiffany & Co.’s enormous stand displayed over a thousand sparkling items, including a spectacular pearl necklace worth $200,000 (roughly $6.7 million today).
Earlier this year, the house continued its tradition of producing high jewellery creations with prized pearls when it unveiled the Bird On A Pearl suite: an exclusive capsule collection crafted with exquisite natural saltwater pearls from the private stores of Hussein Al Fardan, the foremost collector of Gulf pearls. Prized for their weight, clarity and creamy lustre, Gulf pearls (also known as ‘Oriental’ pearls) have been hand-collected by divers in the Middle East for millennia and the region was responsible for most of the world’s pearl supply up until the 1950s. Now almost impossibly rare, it can take decades to acquire enough Gulf pearls for a single stranded necklace.
It’s remarkable, then, that the new Bird on a Pearl collection includes a triple-stranded necklace of graduated creamy white pearls totalling over 316 carats, which sold almost immediately during the lavish launch party for the collection, held in Doha. Of course, Tiffany & Co. master jeweller Jean Schlumberger’s feathered motif from his iconic Bird on a Rock brooch features prominently – perched atop several enormous baroque pearls which have been set into pins or staring quizzically from a dazzling pair of mismatched black and white pearl earrings. Said to be inspired by an encounter with a cockatoo, Schlumberger’s witty, gold-crested bird first appeared in 1965 on a lapis ‘rock’ brooch for the socialite Bunny Mellon and has gone on to adorn many other extraordinary gemstones, including the infamous Tiffany Diamond, one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered.
A truly trailblazer designer, Schlumberger was feted for his ability to capture the energy and ‘randomness’ of natural forms in precious metals (spines, needles, thorns and all) and for adorning his pieces with the very finest gemstones available – not merely for their value (‘you may as well pin a cheque to your chest!’ he once quipped) but to highlight their rarity and incredible beauty. What would he and Charles Lewis Tiffany have made of this latest collection, which incorporates some of the most exceptional pearls around today? Chances are, they would have approved.
Tiffany & Co. 25 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4QB
Main image: TIFFANY & CO. Schlumberger Bird on a Pearl brooch in platinum and 18k yellow gold with a baroque natural saltwater white pearl of over 26 carats, diamonds and a pink sapphire; POA