Pearls of Wisdom

These Pearls Are For You, Not Mum (And Certainly Not Grandma!)

Melanie Georgacopoulos’ brilliant manipulation of pearls and mother-of-pearl has led to the creation of some spectacularly modern sculptural jewellery.

These Pearls Are For You, Not Mum (And Certainly Not Grandma!)
Nacre bracelet in yellow gold and golden mother-of-pearl with golden south sea pearls, by Melanie Georgacopoulos.Melanie Georgacopoulos

Melanie Georgacopoulos never shies away from a challenge. In her quest to reinvent the use of pearls, she’s drilled, sliced and hammered them to create a very distinctive modern style for M/G Tasaki, the joint brand she launched in 2012 with Japanese high-end jeweller Tasaki.  

For her own eponymous brand, Georgacopoulos has been focusing not just on pearls but on motherof-pearl, the iridescent natural material that has long been used in fashion accessories. For example, in the 1920s, mother-of-pearl hit the peak of its popularity, appearing in marquetry on everything from closets, tables, weapons to accessories like cigarette boxes and powder cases made by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bvlgari.

In more recent times, luxury watch brands have ennobled the material, regularly using it to great effect on dials. These days, jewellers often overlook it but that has given Georgacopoulos another opportunity to break new ground.

Melanie Georgacopoulos’ M/G Tasaki Slice Necklace in yellow gold with freshwater pearls.
(Image: Melanie Georgacopoulos)

 “I’m trying to look at mother-of-pearl from different angles. I like the fact that with mother-of-pearl, employing good design and craftsmanship are also necessary as it’s not enough to rely on the material. Most of the time in jewellery making, there’s no need to do much with the design if the material used is very precious. You just put it in the centre and it gets all the attention; everything else ends up needing to be extremely simple,” she says. “Using mother-of-pearl opens up a world of challenges in terms of design, and that interests me.”  

Georgacopoulos admits she tends to go “off the beaten path” in terms of design, because she likes innovation.

“I always feel there is room for new ideas and concepts. In a very crowded environment, I want to believe that good design will stand out and will last the test of time!”  

From the largely underrated material, Georgacopoulos creates seamless, faceted 3-D forms that explore ideas around our fascination with gemstones. Her Facets Collection offers 3-D shapes in mother-of-pearl that resemble popular diamond and emerald cuts, inviting us to reconsider the notion of preciousness. For her Gemstones Collection, she mimics popular diamond cuts and translates them into flattering forms, with some using up to 72 individual segments of mother-of-pearl that are precisely cut, filed and polished before being assembled onto gold bezels. 

“I turned to easily identifiable forms (diamonds, emeralds and more recently, ovals) in the Facets series to ensure that the message about craftsmanship elevating a humble material came across more easily,” she explains.

“But I think I was more innovative in the Nacre series. That was where I consciously tried to create pieces that were not immediately identifiable as jewellery, in order to intrigue the viewer and make them stop for a second and ponder what each object is about.”

For pieces in her latest collection, Cube, she juxtaposes her signature pearl with a cube of identically-sized mother-of-pearl, leading one to view both materials as equally important elements.

“Being innovative is a personal mindset. It’s about not repeating what has already been done.”

Melanie Georgacopoulos

“Mother-of-pearl is such a versatile material. You can carve it, layer it, you can set stone in it; and it has different colours that correspond to the pearls (pink, yellow, peacock and white), with each surface reflecting the light slightly differently,” she says.

This year, as she officially celebrates 10 years of her brand, Georgacopoulos has set herself a new challenge: to incorporate diamonds into her work. “I’ve tried to source them responsibly and, at the same time, find my own voice. It’s been a battle for the last six months because it’s a massive new chapter and I didn’t really know where to start,” she says.

“I wanted to use less popular diamonds. I’m using diamond rough, slices and diamonds with only a few facets. I’ve also found some ‘old mine’ ones. I think these diamonds have a little more personality.” The result of her quest will be unveiled during Paris Couture Week in July, with a complete presentation at PAD London in October.

Corde de Nacre necklace in sterling silver with white and golden mother-of-pearl.
(Image: Melanie Georgacopoulos)

“Being innovative is a personal mindset. It’s about not repeating what has already been done. I love jewellery, I love reading jewellery books from front to back, and I think I have a pretty good awareness of what has been done and what is being done at the moment. I find that in the pearl business and mother-of-pearl jewellery business, there is still a lot of room for new designs, and I’ve appointed myself to do that. It’s something that I like and that I think I’m good at,” she adds with a laugh, “and I want to go further into it.”

This story first appeared in the March 2020 issue of A Magazine.