Pearl Stringing

Bentley & Skinner undertake the stringing and restringing of pearls and precious beads on their premises in London’s Piccadilly. Pearl stringing is a fine art requiring skills of dexterity and patience that come through years of experience. Once, in the days when natural pearls with greater value by weight than diamonds, the pearl stringer was a highly valued figure in the world of fine jewellery. Today very few remaining artisans retain the skills that the traditional techniques of stringing demand.

The majority of pearls today are cultured, that is, a mother of pearl bead has been inserted inside a farmed oyster, which excretes layers of nacre around it. Natural pearls, as the name implies, are from oysters that have to be dived for and are rare and very precious. The weight of a natural pearl is crucial to its value and therefore the hole which is hand drilled is much smaller to that of a machine drilled cultured pearl. Seed pearls are tiny natural pearls which can be worn as necklets and in the 18th and 19th centuries were often woven onto mother of pearl frames to form intricate necklaces and items of jewellery. Holes drilled into these pearls were even smaller.

The stringer must adapt the process of stringing to the type of pearl that is being strung. Pearls are first cleaned then carefully re-graduated before being restrung with new silk. Depending on the size of the holes drilled through the pearls and the desired finished appearance of the necklace, knots may be made between each pearl, or at either end of the necklace, where the thread is more likely to give way. If a single pearl has been drilled with a narrower hole, our stringer will carefully enlarge it using a broaching tool in order that the pearls lay evenly. The end of the silk is passed through a gimp or sort length of coiled wire which is drawn through a ring to the clasp, to prevent the silk from fraying.

Pearl chokers and necklaces that need to be fitted to lay correctly are restrung but not finished and a fitting is arranged in order to make any fine adjustment before the ends of the silks are secured. After restringing the pearls may appear to lie rather stiffly but after several wearings quickly falling to shape. We recommend that if a necklace is worn often, it should be brought in to us at least once every three years for its condition to be carefully checked at no charge.

Bentley & Skinner can restring, redesign or remodel any necklace, be it old or new, with prices starting at £125 plus VAT for a single row of cultured pearls.

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