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 needed to string,” stated Ms. Terjeki, 47, in a latest video interview from her small, windowless, lamp-lit workshop, tucked within the basement of the luxurious 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 one way or the other, and that’s it,” she stated.
As we speak, Ms. Terjeki is entrusted with a number of the world’s most beautiful pearl jewellery, to be restrung, repaired and infrequently redesigned.
Discretion “is an unstated rule within the commerce,” stated Ms. Terjeki, who is commonly required to signal confidentiality agreements when engaged on high-end items. However shoppers she will be able to title embody the public sale homes Bonhams and Sotheby’s, and the jewellery emporiums Moussaieff and Bentley & Skinner. Personal shoppers 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.
Nearly all discover her by way of phrase of mouth.
In 2015, Ms. Terjeki, opened an Instagram account beneath the moniker @stringing_along. She needed 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 anticipate, valuable and semiprecious stone beads, and infrequently even coral, make up an estimated 35 to 40 p.c 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 doubt drawn by the occupation’s uncommon nature: Professional pearl stringers are exhausting to come back by.
“She is one in all a dwindling variety of impartial practitioners holding alive this invaluable talent,” stated Emily Barber, director of bijou 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 carrying 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 finished repeatedly,” he stated. This present day, he stated, extra persons are carrying cultured pearls or much less invaluable pearls.
“Perfecting it and doing it properly is remarkably troublesome,” he stated of the work.
Ms. Terjeki stumbled on the occupation by likelihood, when a veteran stringer supplied her an apprenticeship, and partially credit her success to her background as a goldsmith.
In Budapest, she studied beneath 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 part by hand utilizing solely probably the most primary instruments will be seen in her work at the moment.
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 bit means she’s required to string elsewhere.
Among the many few objects organized inside, stated Ms. Terjeki, will be discovered a “gimp” — a tiny coil of steel that stops the pearl from rubbing towards the clasp, a 0.23-millimeter needle — the slimmest accessible — for threading, and a piece of a crimson 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 “abnormal” 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 present a base worth due to the numerous variables (principally whether or not the shopper is commerce or non-public, the worth of the piece and the time it’s going to take), her work ranges broadly in price 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 price can rise to a couple thousand kilos.
Along with its intricacy, the time spent on a sautoir can depend upon the scale of its pearls.
“Generally 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 element strands and, taking the slimmest, harden it with a minuscule dab of robust glue and slide it via 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 part so shut all day lengthy.”
Time restrictions and the worth of a bit 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 offers the job its enchantment.
“I like challenges,” stated Ms. Terjeki, whose maxim is “nothing is unimaginable” and who has no plans to retire.
As we speak, pearl stringing is her ardour, she stated. “I don’t know if I may reside with out it.”