Pearls for your soul

Pearls for your soul

Guest contribution from Harriet Bosse


The lustre of Katrin Ollech's pearls seems to be a very special one - the precious objects are so enchantingly combined and fabulously staged by her that you quickly succumb to the charm of this very special gem: at Meerglanz Finejewels, the pearls are often team players and underline the radiance of the overall pieces of art that Katrin Ollech creates with the composition of the most diverse precious objects; in the process, you often find a little twist, a subtle wink: sometimes the designer lets an octopus take a seat on the pearl, like Baron Münchhausen on the cannonball and calls it a "deep sea ride", sometimes the pearl is encountered as an imposing headpiece over a "shell dress";  water – the elixir of life for both in their natural habitat - seemingly captured in a white topaz that connects those two. Incidentally, the shell here is lovingly hand-carved from "conche" and comes from a southern Italian family manufactory.

Like all of Katrin Ollech's jewellery, they seem soulful, and with their resonant names, the designer spins a fairy tale, a story, an allegory that weaves around us and carries our imagination away to places steeped in legend - "Ocean Planet", "Meerkönigin", "Frozen Sunrise", "Tahiti Sunset", "Deep Sea Ride" or "La Reine de Tahiti" carry our thoughts away to vast beaches, deep seas, glittering palaces from which the pearls may have risen to us.

Different Meerglanz Jewels with Pearls 


And one thing is certain: a queen - that is what the pearl has always been. 

This enigmatic gem, which (like coral) cannot be clearly classified as either a gemstone or an animal, seems to wander like a magical being between categorical worlds, casting its spell on us with a beguiling lustre from the depths of the sea. Pearls have always attracted attention, and the meanings attributed to pearls for centuries are as multi-layered as their lustre; In Christian iconography, the pearl is read as a symbol of the purity of Mary and the Son of God; in ancient mythology, on the other hand, this gem of seduction is the attribute of Venus, goddess of beauty, who once emerged from the shell and foam; since antiquity, however, the pearl has also been an insignia of power and wealth (think of the legend, handed down by Pliny, in which Cleopatra dissolved one of her famous drops of pearls in vinegar and drank it to impress Antony with the "most expensive meal..."). ) - so it is found in many later souvereign portraits (and real jewellery) as an attribute of royal status.

It found a special place in art: the shine of the pearl, its shimmering lustre, was cited in the Renaissance paragone, the competition between the arts for the highest and most artistic form, as an example of painting trumping the other arts. In van Eyck's work, but also in Vermeer's, many (often unsolved) mysteries may find a refelction in the painted precious gem’ lustre; in Titian's and Lorenzo Lotto's work, the pearl seduces, but also helps the reading to sort out the roles between seductress and victim in a then male world view; In Epitalamia, hidden behind a velvet curtain, it was supposed to delight the viewer at the appropriate hour on the body of a naked woman (usually Venus, but also nymphs or later, in analogy to the former, Manet's Olympia). In Rubens or Caravaggio paintings, the pearl became next to ebing a symbol for beauty but also vanity, a symbol of life or transience: the presence of the pearl could make the mental or physical state of a Mary Magdalene readable as a sinner or transfigured penitent, a Venus could lead from the divine into earthly transience; 

South Sea Pearl with Wings of Citrine

The pearl, which was already common for a time in antiquity as an ear adornment, established itself in the Renaissance as an indispensable fashion accessory. In Italy, the trading cities of Genoa and especially Venice were known for their pearl markets. From there, the fashion for adornment through earrings spread and the pearl earring became an extraordinary status symbol, the most prestigious of all jewels, highlighting the origin of the wearer and emphasizing her beauty. Since 1472, Venice had the “Provisioni alle Pompe” - inspectors who sought to control the "expenditure laws" laid down by law regarding the amount of pearls owned and used, because not everyone was allowed to wear pearls, and certainly not as many as they wanted - only this was not so easy to enforce, as another law proves: this one was enacted to protect those “Provisioni alle Pompe” and testifies to the passion with which the Venetians reacted to this authority. It includes the explicit prohibition of throwing oranges, tomatoes and other things at these public servants. Who knows, maybe we will soon find pearls surrounded by hand-carved little oranges at Meerglanz Finejewels?

In 1515, by the way, this provisional arrangement was turned into an established moral authority (Provedditori alle Pompe) to supervise luxury. It was probably all to no avail to control the hype surrounding the pearl. The public attention given to the pearl was enormous and the discussion about the possession and use of pearls was kept alive for centuries. 

Camee Art Deco Style
Handcarved of Sardonica Conche / String of fresh water pearls / Carees of white Topaz


The pearls of Meerglanz Fine jewels seem to be untouched by such earthly concerns and whoever can afford such a piece of jewellery today can count themselves among the lucky ones; the fascination of pearls remains unbroken, the trend gets fresh momentum and the pearl is about to become the IT piece again. Is it the colours that gently reflect in the lustre, is it the reflection of the real world that we sense in the pearl or is it its unique history of origin that makes pearls oscillate between worlds that captivates us so? With Katrin Ollech, we also get a little story, her pearls take us into the realm of beauty but also of miracles and magic. It seems as if they make something in us sound, if we look at them long enough, our imagination begins to pick up the thread that Katrin Ollech throws at us with her beautiful pieces. 

Story by Harriet Bosse