Pearl Friends: Cynde Newberry

For our first interview in this series, I had the pleasure of talking to Cynde Newberry.  She's a long-time friend and customer whose visits we always really enjoy.  Luckily for all of us, she brought in some of the breathtaking pieces from her collection that she describes in her interview below.  Once you see the photographs of these exquisite pieces, you'll understand her advice on selecting pearls "that speak to you and make your heart sing."  Thank you Cynde!

1. Let’s start at the beginning- where and when did your love for pearls begin? Did the women in your family own and wear pearls?

My birthstone is diamond, so my love of jewelry began with diamonds. Gifts and tokens of affection always were diamonds. The only pearls I wore were the costume kind from my mom - not a real pearl amongst them. I did collect vintage jewelry with pearls but they were made from glass. I never expected to be able to afford "real" pearls. In my late 20's I finally got my first piece of real cultured pearl jewelry and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. For over 36 years pearls have been it for me.

A triple strand of round, metallic freshwater pearls

2. What was your first piece of pearl jewelry?

A good friend was a goldsmith and she made a custom designed ring with a Lake Biwa baroque pearl. At that time I didn't think I would own any "real" pearls except for the ring. Then to my delight, my husband asked a friend to find a very special strand of akoyas for me. That strand became my signature piece of jewelry: 22-inches, 8.5 to 9mm akoyas. I wore that necklace daily for years. It didn't matter where I was going or what I was wearing: shorts, jeans, or evening wear, I had that strand of pearls on. Diamonds were left in the dresser drawer after those pearls arrived.

Cynde's Lake Biwa pearl ring

3. Since then, what direction has your pearl collection taken? Do you have a favorite kind of pearl?

My collection has taken many twists and turns. It seems to have a life of its own, continually evolving. It's hard to say what kind of pearls are my favorite, but I do love my Tahitians and then there are the metallics ... but the souffles are wonderful too ... and what about the big, big Edisons, my first strand of akoyas ... or my last - pistachio's? I do enjoy them all.

A Tahitian pearl tin cup with random sizes and shapes

4. What do you love most about your pearl jewelry?

I love how I feel when I put pearls on. I love that depending on the light they are ever-changing. You can be dressed up or down and they're always appropriate. I love that when I walk into a room or am sitting in a restaurant I catch men and women checking them out. It's fun being out to lunch with a bff who will dive across the table grab my pearls and have to try on my latest find. They're conversation starters. It's also fun to have my hair stylist, or the checker at the grocers, or the postmistress say when they see me come in that they were looking forward to seeing which pearls I would be wearing. Pearls are approachable where diamonds aren't.

A "harvest" strand of mismatched Tahitian beauties

5. Do you have a favorite piece in your collection?

No, that is like asking me which son is my favorite. I love them all except for three that remain on the top of the safe to remind me never to settle for get-by pearls. BTW they are NOT PP pearls either. I learned my lesson with those three strands.

6. Is there a special story behind any of your pieces that you would like to share with us?

Most of my pearls have a special story attached to them. Here are a few. 

I always had dreams of owning a strand of Tahitian pearls. The ladies at lunch would wear theirs, and once one lady had on a strand of big 15 mm silver stunningly beautiful Tahitians. The ones I would see in the BM stores were dark black orbs that I could never quite bring myself to wear. I was at a jewelry store and finally there was the strand for me ... silver body color with a beautiful orient of peacock dancing across those pearls and a price tag of $25k that was not anywhere near my budget, so I kept on dreaming and dreaming of someday. 

Then one very special day I was at Pearl Paradise for the first time choosing a metallic 8-way roller freshwater pendant and earrings. Jeremy had just bought what seemed like thousands of Tahitian strands and he was eager to show them off. I was a very willing gawker. The show table was piled high. In truth I was beside myself seeing for the very first time Tahitians that were not dark black round beads. They had all the colors of the rainbow shimmering from their baroque shapes. I got to run my fingers through piles and piles of them. There were two strands I kept going back to and I asked how much they were, saying a prayer that one of them could be mine. When I was told the price I could not get my check book out fast enough and the first words out of my mouth were: "I will take both!"

My sweet husband was fighting leukemia at that time. My visit to Pearl Paradise had been planned in advance. My sweet husband Frank hid from me how badly he was feeling that morning so I would not cancel my visit. He had a massive heart attack that night and was gone the next month. Those two strands of pearls were my 26th anniversary present - the last present he gave me. That one day I was in both heaven and hell. His first present to me was a strand of pearls as well as his last.

My next strand of Tahitians came just a couple of weeks after his death. My anniversary strands were just too happy and bright so I needed a mourning strand. The mourning strand I wore every day for a year with my widow's weeds.

When I was about to come out of mourning black I started to notice my dark-body green Tahitians did not look their best when paired with my favorite color: navy blue. So back to PP I went and asked if Jeremy had a strand that would look good with navy blue.  We cut one of his FedEx boxes up so that we had blue to lay strand after strand on. Finally he ran to his office and pulled out of his desk a wrinkled old brown sack filled with blue-body, peacock-overtone pearls. He poured them onto the cut-up blue box and now I have the most spectacular, special, rare strand of all: not black body but a dark blue body with bright peacock overtone necklace and matching bracelet. I am one very lucky girl with this strand.

Cynde's custom blue body strand in hand, with her black body strand in background.

And a funny story: I  go to Pearl Paradise to choose my birthday present each spring. I was eagerly awaiting my new pearls to be strung and the delivery was scheduled for a day when I was going to be out of town. I called and made arrangements with FedEx to pick up my package first thing in the morning. I was like that woman in the Target commercial glued to the glass of the store saying "open, open, open." Business men were lined up in front and behind me. By the time I had my package in my hot little hands I had an audience waiting to see what I was so crazy about receiving. They peered over and around my shoulders as the shipping box was opened. The Fedex clerk even did the honors slicing all the tape. None of the men in line with me left that day without examining each strand that came out of the box.  They were passed from hand to hand and I was even asked to model them. Many questions about choosing and buying pearls were asked. The power of pearls is amazing.

7. What is next? Are you on the lookout for the next special addition to your collection?

I won't know until I see it and it makes my mouth water.  It will have to be very special for me to add it to my collection.

A large, rare Edison Pearl

8. What would you say to someone that was new to the world of pearls?

Buy the best quality you can afford and only ones that speak to you and make your heart sing.

9. What would your dream pearls be, if you could have any kind of pearl in any size or shape?

Because of Jeremy and Pearl Paradise all of my pearl dreams have already come true. But me being me I do have a small ever-changing list. 

Thank you Cynde Newberry! We'd like to close with just a few more of your favorites!

Exotic & metallic souffle pearl on a starfish pendant

A pendant make with a Kamoka keshi and two Sea of Cortez pearls

A large fireball freshwater strand with enhancer

A pearl creation from artist Sheri Jurnecka


  • Jeremy Shepherd

    Hi Suzie,

    That would’t suggest that the pearl is natural. The surface of a natural pearl is not unlike the surface of a cultured pearl. They both grow the same way and are composed of the same substance – nacre.

    I hope this helps!

  • Suzie Siegel

    Hi, I hope someone can answer the following question for me. I volunteer for a small, residents-only flea market in a continuous-care facility for the elderly. I’m very, very near-sighted. If I take off my glasses and hold something very close, I can see as well or better than the typical loupe. I’ve noticed that some cultured pearls seem perfectly smooth. But I’ve also come across a couple of pearls that have a surface like the pearl in the photo Question 7 in this interview. In other words, the pearl looks perfectly smooth, but up close for me, or under a loupe, you can see layers of nacre, more or less. Does this suggest the pearl may be natural, instead of cultured? I would be grateful for any help anyone can give me.

  • Tanya O

    What a fabulous collection, and an even more wonderful story. May Cynde continue to find joy with all her beautiful pearls.

  • Becky Martin

    Wow Cynde, what a beautiful collection you have. I didn’t even know about most of the pearls you told about and have shown here. You are a great story teller and have a great eye for quality. Thank you for sharing so much with us about beautiful pearls

  • Blaire Beavers

    Cynde is a STAR and sweet as SUNSHINE! Gorgeous pearls, all!

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