Another beautifully lost dreamer with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Pearl Jewellery Making

The Cook Islands are famous for their stunning black pearls and incredible jewellery making talents. The first time I visited Rarotonga I was recommended Colin Rattle’s workshop, the Black Pearl Jeweller in Muri Beach. I met Colin’s son Paul, who made me a couple of beautiful pendants. The second time visiting Rarotonga, I decided to go back to Paul and ask him if he’d custom make me a black pearl ring, because, if you know me at all, you’d know I have a huge obsession with jewellery; rings in particular!

I love jewellery because it’s often very sentimental and meaningful. Jewellery can be passed down generations with stories to tell. It can be custom made and personal, it could remind you of somewhere you’ve been or could symbolise a promise of eternity. Jewellery is a treasure and I would one day love to learn how to silversmith.

Most of the Cook Islands black pearls come from Manihiki; it’s even known as the island of pearls. Manihiki is a triangle shaped atoll around 720 miles north of Rarotonga. Colin’s wife, Niki, is from Manihiki and she’s such a natural beauty, just like the black pearls farmed there.

When I picked up my ring I fell instantly in love. I was intrigued by the process and was asking Paul lots of questions. I mentioned that I’d love to make jewellery and he offered a morning in the workshop watching him make a ring for a customer from scratch. I was so excited!

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A couple of days later I turned up at the workshop and was ready for my silversmith crash course! Paul is so kind and so amazing at what he does. He explained the process to me and I watched with awe. There are a lot of steps to making a pearl ring, more than I would have expected! The process was fascinating; there were so many elements to put together and lots of machines to use! Once he’d finished the ring he was making for his order, he turned to me and said it was my go! I was really shocked as I didn’t expect him to actually let me try it myself!

I started by choosing my silver, I measured it and cut it to size. It’s safe to say that my sawing needs work. It was pretty poor and my arm ached! I then bashed the silver around the long circle thing (obviously not up to date with the jewellery making lingo just yet) to make it into the shape of a ring. Once it looked like a ring, I filed it smooth and got to get the solder out! Soldering was definitely my favourite bit! There are different chips that are used to solder, depending on the desired result. Once that was done, we popped it in some liquid stuff (maybe water, maybe acid?) and got the sexy goggles out to polish the silver. It got a bit fiddly after that; we made the setting for the pearl to sit in, stuck a tiny pin to the setting and drilled a hole into the pearl. The drilling bit was scary, Paul definitely helped me a lot! The centre of a pearl is the nucleus and it’s actually hard, I always assumed it would be soft. Once the hole was drilled, we put the pearl on the pin and it sat in the little pearl chair perfectly! We got the flame out again and soldered the setting on to the ring that we made earlier. A bit of polishing and ta-daaaa! This happened!

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I surprised myself to be honest! My ring looked epic. My pearl jewellery making tutorial was such an amazing experience. There were so many elements this think about and each task had to be done with such precision it was almost therapeutic. I am so so grateful that Paul took the time to educate me, let me go behind the scenes in his workshop and give me an insight into his trade. I’d recommend Colin and Paul, the Black Pearl Jewellers, to anyone who would like to take home their very own part of the Cook Islands to treasure and reminisce on the memories for years to come.

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  1. The Travel Tester Favourite Blogs February 2016 - […] Pearl Jewellery Making [The Cook Islands] Totally Sam’s World […]

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