Wendy Fairchild is a prominent member of the online pearl community whom we've known for many years. As you'll discover from this interview, she's had an eye for pearls since she was in first grade! Her opinions, taste, and pearl knowledge are just as impressive as her collection of breathtaking pearl jewelry. A big thanks to Wendy for sharing lots of pictures and beautiful memories!
We have so many of Wendy's pictures and memories, we've decided to split this interview into two separate posts. Watch for part two next week!
Wendy's Tahitian souvenir
1. So what was your first piece of pearl jewelry?
My husband and I went on vacation in 2000 to Moorea, French Polynesia with two other couples. I had a neighbor who had gone to Moorea and showed me a black pearl she had gotten on her vacation. Living in a very small town in WA state, black pearls were not in our jewelry stores’ inventory, so I had very little visual knowledge before leaving, except for photos on the internet. We shopped everywhere on Moorea then traveled by ferry over to Papette, Tahiti, window shopping for my perfect pearl. While walking the very curvy streets, we saw many well-dressed French women in dresses and high heels wearing HUGE stud earrings and strands. It was truly amazing. The shops we went into were filled with every size, color and shape of Tahitian pearls, from loose to finished jewelry. Then sticker shock set in when we inquired about the prices for these amazing pearls. My friend bought a navy blue round Tahitian pendant and I purchased this 11 x 13 mm drop. I fell for the hint of cherry on the green pearl. Little did I know that this purchase would change the direction of my jewelry collection and start my love of pearls.
What is your most recent addition to your collection?
I think the readers will see I am a self-confessed Cherry Tahitian addict. That first pearl I just showed you started the love of pearls, but I am drawn to Cherry Tahitians. My best friend Cynde Newberry shops at Pearl Paradise many times during the year. When I can't go there myself, she is my eyes on the ground. I trust Cynde and Jeremy Shepherd to be my personal shoppers when she tours "The Vault". Well, Jeremy had gone shopping and posted this photo on your Facebook page.
As you can imagine, I was very excited for Cynde to head up to look at the new merchandise. For quite a while now, Cynde and Jeremy have been doing phone chats with me while she shops so I can also see the merchandise and they buy my new pieces.
Jeremy was talking about buying new stock and poured a sack of loose pearls out on the big table in your lobby. Cynde spotted that large 12mm Cherry Tahitian featured on the shell photo and as quick as a lizard's tongue snatched it up off the table. My anniversary is in December and I didn't have a Cherry Tahitian pendant, so I talked to Hisano Shepherd about making a custom pendant necklace out of this special pearl. We used your Orion diamond pendant finding and Hisano had her custom jeweler create a bezel set, diamonds by the yard necklace using the same size diamonds that are in the pendant's bale in yellow gold. It is adjustable in the back with O rings for different necklines. It feels special when worn and it coordinates perfectly with the Cherry Eternal dangle earrings Cynde had selected for me from the trip before.
Custom Cherry Tahitian Pendant
Cherry Tahitian Eternal Dangles
2. You are a well-respected expert in the pearl community. How did you get started in your love of pearls? Did the women in your family own and wear pearls?
I am a connoisseur collector of pearls who is always learning new things, which makes buying pearls always fresh and new. My mother always worked when I was growing up. Ladies in the 1950 and 60's wore dresses and heels to work. My mother almost always wore the same earrings each day. When I was in 1st grade the teacher asked us to write something about our mothers. My response was: "My mother wears pearl earrings." When she saw this assignment she laughed, I didn't know why she reacted this way. She said, "Wendy, these are not real pearls."
I am a custom picture framer. After she and my father passed away I found some photos of them together at a much earlier time. I also found the items in the photos so I added them and made a shadow box. As you can see she is wearing her "Pearl Earrings" and small akoya high school graduation strand. This hangs in my bathroom. I look at them every day, it always makes me smile.
Beautifully framed pearl memories
3. We know how much you love cherry Tahitians! How have those pearls influenced the direction that your pearl collection has taken?
Four years ago Cynde Newberry convinced me that I had to attend the Pearl-Guide Ruckus in Los Angeles. I asked my husband if I could have this gift as my birthday present/anniversary gift and anything else I could think of. He agreed - if he could come too. This was a very unexpected surprise that he would want to come too, and I said great! Because this was my first trip to the Pearl Paradise vault, Cynde advised me to have some idea of what I was interested in, or the sheer amount of loose pearls and finished merchandise would be overwhelming. Before we left I scoured the website and jotted down item numbers that I wanted to see.
At that time you had quite a selection of Cherry Tahitian strands in stock. Previously I had purchased 5 loose Cherry Tahitians on the internet from someone else and the thought of getting a matching necklace to go with them was an exciting prospect. Once we got there I asked to see all the Cherry strands, and as luck would have it, two actually matched each other. I had to buy them then both or regret it forever. After I got them home, I used my caliper and added all the largest pearls into one necklace and made the smallest pearls into a choker. They have identical clasps so they can be worn alone, as a double strand, or as a rope.
Wendy's Cherry strand collection
Now, I am continually looking for larger pearls that can be added into the front of the strand. Because of this very different color, Cherry with a green halo, larger pearls are very difficult to find. I was able to get the new large middle of the strand pearl from Josh Humbert from his Kamoka pearl farm two years ago at the Malibu ruckus. The search continues...
4. Do you have a favorite piece in your collection and is there a story behind it?
In August of 2009 Jeremy happened onto some huge 11mm exotic metallic freshwater pearls. What made them special besides the fact that they were huge and metallic, was that they were earring grade, perfectly round 8-way rollers. He posted cards of matched pairs and I was crazy about them.
I selected 4 pairs. Two I gave away to special women in my life and two I kept, copper/pink color-shift and golden/clear. The golden pair was the most special of the 4 pairs. It exhibited a soap bubble effect: like layers of clear lacquer. You can almost see all the way into the pearl and it's quite an illusion.
My husband traveled quite a bit for work and I had to mow our 3 acre yard with 300 limbed pine trees on a riding mower. Every week as I traveled in hundreds of circles around the yard, all I could think about was how wonderful these pearls were and how could I get enough of these pearls to make a tin cup or necklace to go with my earrings. Since my 35th anniversary was less than 6 months away, I called Pearl Paradise and talked to Jeremy to see if this was even feasible or if he had some extra unmatched pearls to sell me to make this necklace? Jeremy told me in the lot of pearls, there were enough matching pearls to make one necklace, and it was the same color as my soap bubble earrings.
It was a very special Anniversary in more ways than one, adding this necklace to my collection. I couldn't believe my luck, it was like one of those once-in-a-lifetime, the-stars-were-aligned-just-for-you experiences. I wore it at the Vulcan Mansion Ruckus. Here I am with it on with my best friend Cynde at the ruckus..
Wendy and Cynde
To be continued next week!