Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Summer 2015, Vol. 51, No. 2

Baroque Pearls

Hummingbird brooch with a baroque pearl surrounded by diamonds.
Figure 1. This hummingbird brooch features a 20.0 mm silver pink baroque pearl. It is surrounded by 319 diamonds (2.54 carats total), with a single 0.03 ct ruby eye mounted in 18K white gold. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA, courtesy of Ron Greenidge and Emiko Pearls International.
Several vendors at this year’s Tucson gem shows, including AGTA and GJX, carried baroque pearls in an assortment of colors, sizes, and qualities. A common request from buyers was for pairs in larger sizes. The increased availability of less-expensive, quickly produced freshwater baroque cultured pearls from China in a wide range of sizes has had a noticeable impact on the market, as more designers are experimenting with them and more consumers are seeking them out. At the same time, sizable high-quality baroque pearls from the Philippines and Australia, particularly golden pearls, are becoming harder to find, as noted by AGTA exhibitor Ron Greenidge (Emiko Pearls International, Bellevue, Washington).

Emiko Pearls, founded in 1980, specializes in large and unusual classic and baroque pearls of gem and near-gem quality, namely South Sea, Tahitian, and “keshi” cultured pearls in golden, silver blue, gray, and pink hues. Greenidge showed us several examples of handmade jewelry that maximized the potential of exceptional baroque cultured pearls, particularly “jumbo” baroques in the 20–22 mm range. In response to market conditions, Emiko has transitioned over the past decade from offering loose pearls to almost exclusively producing finished goods.

Octopus brooch featuring a gray baroque Tahitian cultured pearl and diamonds.
Figure 2. The whimsical design of this octopus brooch accentuates the 17.3 mm gray
baroque Tahitian cultured pearl set in black-plated 18K gold. Also featured are 374 black
diamonds totaling 3.78 carats, 26 yellow diamonds totaling 0.33 carats, and 169 white
diamonds totaling 1.64 carats. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA, courtesy of Ron Greenidge
and Emiko Pearls International. 
Greenidge’s love of jewelry, paired with the increasing scarcity of high-quality larger pearls, has led the company to make one-of-a-kind pieces that showcase the uniqueness of individual pearls. Instead of finding pearls to place into existing jewelry, the firm designs jewelry around the pearl. The results are exquisite with whimsical and natural qualities, as seen in their hummingbird and octopus brooches (figures 1 and 2). Each piece is hand-welded from 18K gold, with diamonds and other precious stones added. The pieces, which take several months to create, are sought by clients in Asia and Europe (particularly China, Thailand, and Italy). High-end stores with one or two locations are the primary buyers, as Emiko does not mass-produce any of its designs. The swallow pin in figure 3, complete with forked tails, uses multiple keshi cultured pearls in two tones with matching diamond and gold colors.

Brooch depicting swallows featuring “keshi” cultured pearls, along with diamonds and rubies.
Figure 3. This brooch depicting four swallows contains two golden “keshi” cultured pearls from the Philippines and two silver blue Australian South Sea keshi, ranging from 9 to 11 mm. They are surrounded by 211 yellow diamonds totaling 1.70 carats, 170 white diamonds totaling 1.23 carats, and eight ruby eyes totaling 0.28 carats, all set in white and yellow 18K gold. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA, courtesy of Ron Greenidge and Emiko Pearls International.
As the consumption of pearls, including large baroque cultured material, increases with greater availability of lower-priced goods, expect to see other suppliers of high-quality pearls strive to differentiate themselves as Emiko has done.

Jennifer Stone-Sundberg ( is managing director at Crystal Solutions in Portland, Oregon.