Christine Salter, Paspaley

— Expert Interview

The Opulent Hour. Photo by Ali Mitton.
The Opulent Hour. Photo by Ali Mitton.

The LANE team was recently lucky enough to find ourselves in Paspaley’s flagship boutique, loaning some of the most magnificent pearls for our fine jewellery editorial, The Opulent Hour. Despite being the world’s largest source of the finest quality South Sea Pearls, the Paspaley story is an inspiring one of humble beginning and brand heritage - a family business at its heart and soul.

It is no secret here at The LANE we adore a bohemian bride in a vintage lace wedding gown, adorning layers of Paspaley pearls around her neck and wrist, but regardless of your aesthetic a purchase of one of Paspaley’s incredible pieces for your wedding will be treasured forever.

The LANE chats emerging bridal jewellery trends, the inspiration behind Paspaley’s collections and how to achieve the layered strand look with Paspaley’s Creative Director Christine Salter.... 

(Interview continued in and under gallery).

Describe Paspaley pearls in 3 words...

Inspirational Australian Luxury

Tell us a little about the Paspaley brand and Paspaley pearls?

My family’s involvement in pearling started in 1935 when my grandfather, Nicholas Paspaley, started diving in the remote waters of the Kimberley for the Australian South Sea pearl shell. This species of pearl shell and the natural pearls they produced were the rarest and most lustrous in the world, and remain so today. My grandfather later introduced pearl culturing techniques to this supreme shell, and he established a family passion that has lasted for generations. Paspaley has evolved to become the world's leader in high-quality pearls.

Paspaley South Sea pearls only come from remote and pristine waters along the northern Australian coast. A pearl’s quality is dependant on the purity of the waters in which it grows, so Paspaley has an ongoing commitment to protecting the oceans.  Each pearl is lovingly nurtured throughout the many years of the pearling process, from the wild sea beds to the moment it leaves a Paspaley store as an exquisite piece of jewellery. Only the finest pearls from our harvests are selected for Paspaley’s jewellery collections, and they are the inspiration for designs that are collected around the world.

Tell us a little about your role with Paspaley...

I determine the creative direction for Paspaley jewellery based on my understanding of our customer’s needs and desires. I keep myself acutely aware of emerging trends in jewellery and fashion, and then create design briefs that provide the Paspaley jewellery designers with basic concepts for upcoming feature collections, one-of-a-kind pieces or product enhancements. The designers, jewelers and I work closely together until we all agree something truly inspiring has been created. 

In the past pearls have been associated with more traditional / classic and even conservative styles. Are pearls adaptable to a more contemporary and fashionable aesthetic? How can a free-spirited bride incorporate pearls into her wedding look?

Whilst the hallmark of Paspaley is the classic strand, Paspaley has led the world in contemporary pearl jewellery design, in many ways redefining how pearls are worn.

Paspaley collections have continued to evolve, using gemstones and unique designs to create jewellery which is far beyond the traditional understanding of pearls. Pieces from our recentOdyssey collection feature innovative materials such as black ceramic and titanium in rings and earrings, whereas the Muse collection features onyx or moonstone pieces which can be layered or disassembled to respond to a woman’s personal interpretation and style.

If you could creatively collaborate and design a pearl ring or pearl jewellery for a bride (living or dead) who would it be? Why?

Elizabeth Taylor. Her passion and sentiment for jewellery was truly genuine, and she never seemed to tire of a piece no matter the value.  She understood that with every piece of jewellery comes a story, and she loved sharing her stories with the world.

Have you noticed a trend for pearl engagement rings? What current & upcoming trends are there for bridal jewellery?

We receive many requests for Paspaley pearl engagement rings but since they will be knocked against hard surfaces everyday for decades to come we advise brides to choose harder gems like diamonds and sapphires. Pearl earrings are the most popular form of pearl jewellery for brides.

The age-old tradition for a father to give pearls to his daughter on her wedding day is rapidly emerging into modern culture, and I believe it is the timeless elegance, natural qualities and pure aesthetics of a pearl that fathers find so alluring for this occasion. Most ancient cultures think of pearls as symbols of love and purity. According to Hindu legend, Krishna discovered the first pearl and gave it to his daughter on her wedding day.

For brides considering a pearl ring, what general advice can you give them?

For the reasons given previously I personally don’t believe pearls are the wisest gem for engagement rings, however, if a bride still wishes for a pearl engagement ring then my suggestion for everyday wear is to choose a ring with a low-set pearl as opposed to a more opulent cocktail ring that has the pearl sitting up high for maximum effect.

Paspaley is internationally renowned as the world’s largest source of the finest quality pearls and has a long romance with the Australian South Sea Pearl. Why are these pearls particularly special?

Australian South Sea pearls are from the Pinctada Maxima oyster which is only found in small patches of Australian waters. This shell has always been regarded as the most prized of all pearl shell because of its rarity, large size, and most importantly the quality of the pearly nacre which covers the inside of the shell. These attributes are passed on to the pearl it creates. With Paspaley’s unwavering care of the shell, the Pinctada Maxima oyster has created the queen among pearls, unsurpassed in quality. They are globally recognised as the most valuable, beautiful, and finest quality pearls. Paspaley pearls range in size from the perfectly petite to majestic proportions, and all Paspaley pearls are free from artificial enhancement; they emerge from the oyster with a lustrous natural glow, just as nature intended.

Do you have a favouritepiece/creation? If so, which piece and why?

I have favourite pieces depending on my mood and the occasion. For travelling I like the versatility of the Paspaley pave diamond horseshoe earrings which disassemble so I can wear them with or without the drop pearls. They are ideal for women who travel extensively or who have a dynamic lifestyle.  For evening occasions I really love the Muse yellow gold bangle with the pearl, rose quartz cabochon and diamonds. There is something incredibly sensual about the way it entwines the wrist yet the feminine warm tones give it a romantic softness.

Often brides like to purchase a special piece of jewellery for their wedding that they can treasure as a keepsake / heirloom. What pieces do you suggest?

Recently we have seen the red carpet trends showcasing a fabulous array of statement earrings and the bridal market is quick to follow. Earrings stand out when the hair is up or styled away from the face, which is a popular style for brides. As a general guideline, a high neckline works beautifully with earrings, whilst a scoop neckline looks exceptional with a glittering diamond and pearl necklet. A bride should select a piece with long-lasting elegance so that she can enjoy wearing such a sentimental piece forever. It really is a matter of taste, but the Paspaley Dew Drop earrings are the perfect accessory for a bride in my opinion. The Paspaley pearl cufflinks have also become a popular gift from bride to groom.

Our current pearl obsession is decadent strands of pearls layered around the neck and wrists. How can this look be achieved with Paspaley strands? Paspaley are famous for The Paspaley Strand Signature, what make the strands so special?

The layering of pearl strands creates an opulent statement and can be achieved in numerous ways with Paspaley pearl strands. A long opera-length strand can be wrapped around the neck twice, or several strands of varying or similar length can be worn together, or small keshi strand can be entwined to make a double or triple twisted strand. Paspaley also has in our collection a clasp allowing one to three strands to be connected, creating a seamlessly layered effect. Paspaley strands come with a unique pearl-clasp mechanism allowing strands to be invisibly joined together. This enables customers not only layer their strands, but also join them together to create one long necklace.

Strand bracelets can either be worn separately or grouped together. Our smaller Keshi pearl strands can also be wrapped twice around the wrist as a doubled- bracelet.

Paspaley strands are esteemed throughout the world as the pinnacle of quality and natural beauty, perfectly matched for colour, lustre, complexion, and balanced for size, created with the world’s best stringing technique. Each strand bares the Paspaley Strand Signature, an exquisite Paspaley branded diamond, seamlessly set into the shoulder pearl and featuring a laser engraved hallmark and unique identification number. The Paspaley Strand Signature is an assurance of provenance and superior quality, guarding the customer against imitations.  The very rarest and most exceptional of Paspaley strands are referred to as ‘super strands’, and are set with a pink diamond. Only a few such strands are completed in the world each year.

Paspaley pride themselves on using only the finest pearls. A mere 5% from the pearl harvest are selected for jewellery use. Why is this quality so important when making a purchase? How can one identify quality pearls?

The quality of a pearl determines its beauty, so quite simply the more lustrous a pearl the more beautiful it is to look at. Unlike other gemstones, pearls are graded by eye because the virtues are evident upon inspection. Paspaley Australian South Sea pearls are graded according to the traditional grading methods of the ‘5 virtues’ – colour, shape, size, lustre and complexion. It is a combination of these virtues that determines the worth of each pearl, and lustre is the most important, similar to the way colour is to diamonds. Our quality standards and rigorous grading techniques ensure that only the most remarkable pearls are hand picked for Paspaley jewellery. On rare occasions nature produces a pearl distinguishable amongst other fine quality pearls. These unique gems are reserved for our finest strands and bespoke jewellery designs. Such is the rarity of these pearls that pearl connoisseurs claim the world’s yearly supply can be held in one cupped hand.

Our readers come to The LANE for creative ideas, to be inspired and to get lost in a world of glamour and beauty. What creative people / artists / designers inspire the Paspaley’s collections? 

Since pearls are created by nature it makes sense that nature has been the most important source of design inspiration so we usually draw upon the sea, the sky and the land for our conceptual ideas. But, we have also used the modern woman as inspiration. It is more about her attitude than her look. The modern woman is as feminine as she is confident, as chic as she is daring. Alexa Chung and Carine Roitfeld carry these qualities. I am also inspired by the way Giorgio Armani encapsulates modern femininity in his designs. Armani clothing has an ever-lasting elegance with a modern twist in the detail somewhere.     

Above all else, a bride should remember….

To take her new husband aside during the wedding reception, and together, admire the decorations, listen to the music, and kiss each other. That moment will be the only one she will truly remember.

Current Obsession?

The Greek island of Kastellorizo. I am always obsessing over something in Europe whether it is a gallery, a hotel, a city...

On a Sunday afternoon what are you doing?

I spend Sunday afternoons with my husband and son, often at my father’s house with the rest of my family.

Beach or City?                 City

Tea or Coffee?                 Coffee

Morning or night?            Night

Hot or Cold?                     Cold

Paris or New York?        Paris

iPhone or Macbook?      iPhone

Autumn or Spring?         Autumn

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