Against the noisy bustle of Jackson Town Square, walking into Pearls by Shari can offer a sense of serene calm. Mirrored cases encircle the modest space in Shari Turpin’s flagship store; the soft luster of her pearls glow from within them. Nestled inside each case are pieces clearly designed and crafted with intention and passion.
“The pearl is the only gem that is formed by a living creature,” Shari, the owner and lead designer, says. Much like snow flakes, no two pearls are the same. Unlike other precious gemstones that are cut — diamonds, rubies, sapphires — the pearl is complete when it’s obtained from the oyster. Shari and her team can offer intricate details on the types of pearls offered — Akoya, Tahitian, White South Sea, and the rarest species of all, Golden South Sea — and the oysters that form them. They are intimate with their history. Most designers will purchase their gems from a broker. In contrast, Shari travels to many countries such as Japan and the Philippines to work directly with the farm owners. Her relationships with the families that have been farming pearls for generations are decades old.
She is also one of the largest buyers of the highest-quality Golden South Sea pearls. She grades the pearls herself — evaluating these gems on seven attributes including luster, color, surface quality, shape, size, matching, and nacre, the material that gives pearls their iridescence. She and her team design jewelry to showcase and complement each pearl chosen for the piece.
Shari is with her pearls from the start of their journey to the very end. And she is with her clients throughout their journey as well.
“I’m very relational,” Shari states. “I want to get to know a person before I can choose or design a piece for them.” For Shari, it is about making that perfect match between the piece and the person. She understands implicitly that a piece that is simply a statement bauble will end up languishing in a box somewhere. “I want these pieces to be worn!” she exclaims. A piece that speaks to its wearer — that makes its wearer feel strong or beautiful or powerful — is a piece that endures.
Purchasing a Pearls by Shari piece is a curated experience. The Jackson showroom is an intimate space, designed to allow careful consideration of the artwork displayed. For high-end pieces and longtime clients, Pearls by Shari has a separate showroom, a quiet space to view one-of-a-kind work or to collaborate on the design. If the store gets crowded, Shari closes and locks the door, allowing the client to take their time and receive the highly personalized service she and her team prize.
For Shari, the legacy of a pearl — its history, its journey — is part of its unique beauty. “Pearls are the No.1 passed-on gem in the world,” she comments. “Your grandmother’s pearls, most likely they are Akoya pearls from Japan. The pearl had its great introduction into the American market because of servicemen coming home from the war.” She reflects that pearls are sometimes the first significant gem a woman will receive, to grow with her and someday be worn on significant occasions such as graduation or a wedding day.
She also believes they are for everyday wear, not just an occasion piece. “If I am upright, I’m wearing my pearls,” she says, smiling. “I wear them fishing, horseback riding, cooking. They’re with me always.” Wear whatever you want, she opines, but then “put on the power!” As our mountains and rivers are meant to be experienced rather than just looked at in their glory, the lustrous pearl is meant to be worn. And just as everyone has their own journey, so too do the pearls that Shari is so passionate about. It is a passion she wants to share.