LONDON — Earlier than her profitable, if considerably area of interest, profession, the Hungarian-born pearl stringer Renata Terjeki was by no means a fan of pearls.
“I by no means wished to string,” stated Ms. Terjeki, 47, in a current video interview from her small, windowless, lamp-lit workshop, tucked within the basement of the posh vintage jeweler Bentley & Skinner on London’s bustling Piccadilly.
To her thoughts, pearl necklaces had been the protect of individuals over 80, and stringing was a straightforward pursuit: “I assumed all they do is simply chuck the pearls on a string, tie it someway, and that’s it,” she stated.
At the moment, Ms. Terjeki is entrusted with a number of the world’s most beautiful pearl jewellery, to be restrung, repaired and sometimes redesigned.
Discretion “is an unstated rule within the commerce,” stated Ms. Terjeki, who is usually required to signal confidentiality agreements when engaged on high-end items. However purchasers she will be able to title embrace the public sale homes Bonhams and Sotheby’s, and the jewellery emporiums Moussaieff and Bentley & Skinner. Non-public purchasers have included a daughter of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, (for whom she strung a prayer-bead-like gold and pearl necklace one Christmas), and European royalty.
Virtually all discover her through phrase of mouth.
In 2015, Ms. Terjeki, opened an Instagram account underneath the moniker @stringing_along. She wished to appropriate the misconceptions round pearl stringing that she herself had harbored. Among the many works on show there are woven pearl watch straps, black diamond idler tassels, gemstone curtain ornaments and an vintage Cartier bag coated in tiny pearls.
Opposite to what one may count on, valuable and semiprecious stone beads, and sometimes even coral, make up an estimated 35 to 40 % of Ms. Terjeki’s work, she stated. (“It’s the identical approach,” she stated. “Only a totally different materials.”) And even ribbon is a part of her repertoire. It’s historically a pearl stringer’s job to wind velvet, hair-colored ribbons concerning the frames of some tiaras, she stated.
So far, her Instagram feed has greater than 17,000 followers, some little question drawn by the occupation’s uncommon nature: Knowledgeable pearl stringers are laborious to return by.
“She is one in all a dwindling variety of impartial practitioners conserving alive this helpful ability,” stated Emily Barber, director of jewellery at Bonhams UK — an public sale home that has labored with Ms. Terjeki for 12 years. (“Renata is the doyenne of pearl stringers,” she stated.)
Ms. Terjeki estimates there are solely a handful of high-level pearl stringers left in London.
This shortage is probably going the results of a shift away from the common sporting of high-priced, pure pearls, stated Kristian Spofforth, head of division, Sotheby’s jewellery, London. Within the early twentieth century, when pure pearls had been at their peak, “it’s one thing you bought carried out recurrently,” he stated. At the moment, he stated, extra individuals are sporting cultured pearls or much less helpful pearls.
“Perfecting it and doing it properly is remarkably tough,” he stated of the work.
Ms. Terjeki came across the occupation by likelihood, when a veteran stringer supplied her an apprenticeship, and partly credit her success to her background as a goldsmith.
In Budapest, she studied underneath a grasp goldsmith, Rezso Ludvig, an artist well-known inside Hungarian jewellery circles for restoring the Hungarian crown jewels, she stated. His insistence that every one college students study to craft every little thing by hand utilizing solely essentially the most primary instruments might be seen in her work as we speak.
Although specialist instruments exist, her personal are easy. And, apart from her drill and model, all match right into a picket field she carries together with her when the worth of a chunk means she’s required to string elsewhere.
Among the many few gadgets organized inside, stated Ms. Terjeki, might be discovered a “gimp” — a tiny coil of metallic that forestalls the pearl from rubbing towards the clasp, a 0.23-millimeter needle — the slimmest out there — for threading, and a piece of a purple cotton desk runner introduced from a housewares retailer. (The colour permits her to see the pearls clearly, and the material “has little grooves, which stops the pearls rolling,” she stated.) Knots are tied with an “bizarre” needle that slots right into a rounded picket deal with, she stated. And as for her thread, although some use silk, Ms. Terjeki favors nylon: In contrast to silk, nylon “is sturdy, so the knot stays good and neat,” she stated.
Although she declined to provide a base value due to the numerous variables (principally whether or not the consumer is commerce or non-public, the worth of the piece and the time it would take), her work ranges broadly in value and complexity.
At one finish of the dimensions are single-row necklaces. On the different are plaited sautoirs — the French title for lengthy necklaces shaped of woven ropes of pearls with wires crisscrossing inside that usually culminate in a number of tassels. Because the work can require as much as 10 hours a day of full focus for 3 weeks to a month, she stated, the fee can rise to some thousand kilos.
Along with its intricacy, the time spent on a sautoir can depend upon the dimensions of its pearls.
“Typically the pearl gap, and the pearl itself, is so tiny even my thinnest needle gained’t undergo,” Ms. Terjeki stated.
Her answer: Cut up the nylon thread into its part strands and, taking the slimmest, harden it with a minuscule dab of robust glue and slide it by the pearls like a needle. That’s why she is nearsighted, she stated. “I don’t want glasses for work, however I do want glasses for driving, watching a film, as a result of I stare at every little thing so shut all day lengthy.”
Time restrictions and the worth of a chunk can add to the someday high-pressure nature of her job, stated Ms. Terjeki, who was as soon as required to finish a five-row pure pearl necklace price over £1 million in solely two hours whereas seated beside a bodyguard within the SSEF pearl lab in Zurich.
“With a Seventeenth-century necklace, I can’t simply go and get one other one,” she stated.
However this provides the job its attraction.
“I like challenges,” stated Ms. Terjeki, whose maxim is “nothing is unimaginable” and who has no plans to retire.
At the moment, pearl stringing is her ardour, she stated. “I don’t know if I may stay with out it.”