PIKE and Paspaley

Hello everyone

I hope you are all well and avoiding the change of season illnesses. From what we have experienced personally and from the news our clients bring, there have been lots of people with a myriad of colds, chest infections, and aches and pains. If you have succumbed, I hope your recovery is fast so you can enjoy this long awaited rain. The new month has come around quickly and we are already experiencing winter. I do love the cold weather, so long as I have somewhere warm to be. It always makes me think of good food and company – hearty soups, stews, roasts meats, baked vegetables, a bottle of red, and winter puddings all shared with family and friends.

Talking of soup, Helen is a soup magician and she possesses a real talent for creating mouth-watering recipes.  Often she will say “I think I’ll make soup!” Normally I’ve seen what’s in the pantry and the refrigerator and not being a cook, I can’t imagine what she will prepare, but like magic there appears the most delicious surprise, seemingly in minutes. Her skill at soup making caused us to suggest some years ago that she should open a soup restaurant called ‘Hels’ Kitchen’ after we visited a bistro in Sydney called ‘Soup Plus’. They served a large choice of hot soups with a big selection of fresh breads, toppings and cheeses and often accompanied by carafes of rose, white or red wine. In summer, the soups were chilled versions or room temperature and served with a large selection of cold meats, vegetables, pickles and salads – dessert was hand made ice creams. The concept was so simple and yet creative at a time when complicated and expensive menus were fashionable. They also featured live jazz after about 4 in the afternoon, and it created a wonderful atmosphere. Still could be a great idea, it just takes lots of energy and capital!

June is the month of pearls and even though some of you may not own or appreciate pearls, you have to marvel at their creation. A small irritant, either natural or man-made, makes the oyster or mussel produce a substance which coats the irritant and this is called nacre (also the name of the outer shiny part of the pearl). Within a year or two, a pearl exists inside the shell. Not all are perfect but there are many different sizes, shapes, colours and lustres. They are truly amazing and formed through an incredible process of nature (read here about how pearls are cultured).

I have always loved pearls, and in 1992 I heard about an exhibition that Marilynne Paspaley of the famous Paspaley Pearls family was coordinating. The exhibition was named ‘Australia: the Treasure Island’ because she had asked designers to use Paspaley South Sea pearls from Broome, Kalgoorlie silver and gold, Argyle diamonds, and local opals and sapphires – all of Australian origin.

The show was to open in 1993 in Sydney and then travel to Broome and Darwin. I decided to approach Marilynne, and although she had already chosen eight jewellers to create the collection, after seeing how I designed and set pearl jewellery, she included me in the list. I only had a few months to present the final designs and during this time I received many phone calls from Marilynne. One of the calls was to invite Helen and me to Sydney to show us the pearls she had chosen for my pieces.

We arrived at the store in King Street (Paspaley Pearls has now moved to Martin Place) and we were ushered through a very glamorous showroom, then upstairs via a marble spiral staircase to meet Marilynne. I had seen her on the ABC television series ‘GP’ and so had some idea of her personality, but I didn’t appreciate her empowering nature and her passion for her stunning pearls. She entered the showroom holding a tray of the most amazing pearls I had ever seen, and she literally nursed them one by one while she was talking – she knew every pearl for its individual beauty. Once the number of pearls was confirmed, she gave us all of them to bring back to Adelaide. Helen and I looked at each other, and all we could think of was the incredible responsibility and value we were bringing home. Once back in Adelaide, I began the process of designing appropriate concepts and mounts. I had never worked with pearls of such large size and quality. I was also very aware that the designs had to showcase the pearls in styles that didn’t overpower their lustrous nature – the styles had to enhance the pearls. All of them were undrilled so you can only imagine how nervous we felt having to drill into such extraordinary gems so we could pin them into place!

The collection I created involved a total of 27 pieces – rings, earrings, pendants, brooches and a collier which Marilynne named ‘Fantastique.’ The neck piece had a total of seven pearls and some diamonds all set in 18 carat yellow gold. I have included my original sketches of some of the pieces from the collection below.







The opening night in Sydney was a star-studded event and Marilynne was thrilled as many pieces sold. Some of my pieces sold before the exhibition left Sydney, so I had to repeat them again so the display was complete when it opened in Broome and Darwin.

The opportunity I was given was the beginning of a successful relationship with the Paspaley family and with beautiful South Sea pearls.

In 1998, my relationship with Paspaley Pearls and the South Sea Pearl Consortium provided a wonderful opportunity. Nicholas Pike Jeweller – then on Greenhill Road adjacent to the Burnside Village – was chosen to display the 68 pieces of the PURE Creation ’98 collection. There were four categories, and I was fortunate to win the ‘Pure Brilliance’ section for my design of an enhanced necklace of South Sea Keshi pearls (they are a cultured pearl without the man-made bead implant in the centre of the pearl). I designed seven stone-set gold spacers that were placed intermittently between the pearls on the strand and were set with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, tourmalines, aquamarines, peridots and amethysts. They were a contemporary addition to a beautiful keshi pearl strand and enhanced their rare uneven shapes (see below).


My affiliation and use of pearls has continued throughout the years, and I have often featured them in my many window displays. The most spectacular was a large version of a photo we took and which featured on an invitation we sent out to celebrate the opening of the PURE Creation display. We photographed four South Sea pearls balanced on a dinner fork, with the caption ‘good enough to eat!’ In collaboration with a clever sculptor, we created a giant steel fork with enormous replicas of the four pearls using fibreglass and paint, and it formed the window feature throughout the exhibition.  The ‘pearls’ have long gone but the fork remains in our garden at home and is a lovely memento. I have included an image of the invitation cover below.


My next blog will feature more stories about the experiences I have had involving design. Every event, collaboration and workshop has taught me so much. They have been rewarding, enriching and valuable, and have opened my mind to endless possibilities.

Until next month

love, Nicholas.


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