The Girl in the Pearl Necklace
Maui-based jewelry designer Nina Lee often works with sterling silver and 14k gold fill for her line, Nina Kuna Designs, but tells me she’s been expanding into pearl jewelry. “I recently made a connection with a pearl dealer on Oahu. He goes to Tahiti and picks out the pearls,” she explains.
The resulting necklace designs are casually elegant, with pearls strung on leather or black silk cord. Take the Tahiti Sauvage, for example, which the designer calls “the beach bum’s down-to-earth Tahitian pearl solitaire.” Instead of a chain, the pearl is strung on deerskin, with a clasp made from a puka shell.
Lee, who has a photography background, hand-hammers and creates all of her jewelry herself, working from home, though she does commission a Mainland artist for the cast-silver pieces, such as the cowrie shell incorporated onto a leather bracelet ($59, shown in the photo below). Her designs are delicate and lightweight, for the most part, with clean lines. “I want it to feel contemporary and modern,” she says of her aesthetic. “I’m a little bit minimalist and don’t like too much flash.”
PHOTO: NINA LEE
You can buy Nina Kuna Designs (prices start around $40) via her Web site, and a select portion of the line is also sold on Oahu at Shasa Emporium. The new Tahitian pearl designs are sold exclusively through her Web site, but check out the kamaaina discount—15 percent off. Another reason to love her Web site; free shipping worldwide, and, if you're ordering a present for someone, you can choose a custom messages and gift wrapping, gratis as well.