Posted 5 years ago
A recent CW discussion of TassieDevil's paua necklace and earrings reminded me of this piece. The pendant is about 25mm high (excluding the loops) and consists of a nicely engraved gold cap set onto a paua pearl, probably circa 1900.
The crown mark used with a 9CT stamp is the hallmark of the Wellington colonial jeweller and silversmith, Frank Grady. He commenced trade around 1880, was joined by his sons around 1900, and his firm was active until about 1920.
This is a rare thing on many counts. Abalone pearls are rare, so antique abalone pearl jewellery from anywhere is most unusual. In New Zealand abalone is known by the Maori name 'paua', and this piece could be the earliest known item of New Zealand colonial paua jewellery. It's probably unique for the use of a paua pearl, as I've never seen or heard of another one in a piece of New Zealand colonial jewellery.
Abalone pearls are usually horn or spur shaped, and pearls larger than 15mm are only found in about 1 out of 100,000 abalone opened, and they only occur naturally, they can't be cultured.
However an enterprising New Zealand business has recently developed a way of culturing raised mabe (half-round) pearls on the inside shells of paua, which they market as New Zealand Blue Pearls.
Abalone are interesting creatures, they're a marine gastropod (sea snail) that sticks to rocks like a limpet. They're a great delicacy much loved by kiwis (the humans, not the birds). I've dived for these guys, they're very yum!