Pearls with gemstone cores

June 11, 2007

In a recent article on, I described very generally how cultured pearls are made by artificially inserting irritants – like small pieces of shell – into the tissues of mollusks.  For salt water (or sea) pearls, the irritant traditionally is a tiny piece of mother of pearl (the pearl-like material that lines the insides of mollusk shells).

Artist Chi Huynh is breaking that tradition by using round gemstones as the irritants, or nuclei.  His creative designs were much admired at this year’s big jewelry show in Las Vegas.  Chi implants oysters off the coast of Vietnam with high-quality semi-precious gemstones.  (Well, perhaps he hires someone to do this for him, following his specifications.) The results are beautiful black (Tahitian-style) pearls with stone centers. He then artfully carves the pearl nacre to expose the gemstone beneath. This PDF of a page from Modern Jeweler  provides a nice example photo.

Chi was previously best known for his “Diamond in a Pearl” collection, where he sets diamonds into pearls. You can browse many of his unique designs at the Diamond in a Pearl website.


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