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SOCAL STYLE / Fashion

Other Pearls in the Sea

Unusual Colors and Shapes Add New Luster to a Jeweler's Designs

July 19, 1998|Judy Prouty

Jeweler Hilary Beane is a woman obsessed. When she isn't busy making her pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings, she's dreaming up new designs for them. "Pearls make such a wonderful, glamorous statement," she says, "I'm fascinated with their colors, shapes, sizes and luster." Beane, a former model and actress, got her start as a designer in the '80s, making papier-mache heraldic symbols decorated with pave beads and semiprecious stones and, later, brass and silver flowers for music stars such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. "I wanted to work with my hands, so I became a rock 'n' roll jeweler," she says with a laugh.

About five years ago, Beane switched gears, inspired by the range of colors--black, gray, pistachio green and peacock blue--of giant Tahitian pearls and the iridescent whites and creams of South Sea pearls. "The first ones I could afford were so crummy and misshapen that I would put a stone over the flaw," she explains, describing how she used to drill holes in the pearls, set precious stones in bezels and inlay the bezels. Today, her signature pieces are better Tahitian and South Sea pearls, inlaid with tiny diamonds, emeralds or rubies.

During the past year, the Los Angeles jeweler has turned to freshwater Chinese pearls as well. Cultivated in mussels instead of oysters, these large pearls (9 to 12 millimeters in diameter) come in groundbreaking pastel pink, apricot and lavender shades. "I'm a color freak," Beane says, "so now I can further my palette." Her latest necklaces and bracelets are understated, featuring simple strands of the marble-sized freshwater pearls with an 18-karat-gold cage-and-hook clasp. Her newest earrings are single pink pearls, each inset with a small diamond or ruby. And earlier this year, she created a velvet evening bag and a velvet pager pouch surrounded by a net of pearl-studded sterling wire to add to her line, which ranges in price from $500 to $5,000 and is available at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills and Jennifer Kaufman at the Beverly Center.

While Beane's designs have been influenced by the pearls themselves, her interest in art has also come into play. For instance, she based a series of pieces on the work of Joan Miro. "I've been a great fan of his forever," she says. In the end, though, Beane's goal remains constant: to create jewelry that can be worn every day, a "clean and spare look that celebrates the pearl."

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