Hope Estella Waggoner’s passion for the humanities and the beauty of nature helped define her love of precious gemstones, including pearls. But it was an ad from the Tahitian government in her social media feed that led the mother and native Texan to the Pearls As One (PAO) course, where she quickly took up Tahiti’s grant offer to study cultured pearls. “Learning about pearls has been a mind-opening experience for me,” says Waggoner. PAO made the knowledge and history of cultured pearls accessible to a wide range of students, and the passion and dedication of course creator Jeremy Shepherd ensured the education was in depth and the community itself welcoming. “PAO is great for starting and continuing your education about cultured pearls,” she adds. Waggoner earned her certificate of completion in March 2021. Read on to learn more about the student and her love of learning about pearls.
Why are pearls important do you?
As a child my older brother would take me along to rock and gem shops. I have a passion for gemstones! I have also had an interest in Asian cultures—especially Japan—since childhood. I love learning about the people and the rich, beautiful culture of the country! It was a great pleasure for me to read about Kokichi Mikimoto, and how Japan has been in the forefront of the industry. I have a great deal of respect for the people of Japan and hope to travel there one day to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting. I also have family all over Mexico, and knew the pearls came from Mazatlan, but I didn't know the history of Sea of Cortez pearls. I am looking forward to seeing how pearls have been involved in Mexican culture and have fallen in love all over again with the mystique of Mexico!
Why was it important for you to take PAO?
I can remember being a toddler and my family having a room in our house dedicated to making earrings. My aunt also taught me some silversmithing she learned growing up in Mexico City. My first real introduction to pearl jewelry was through Facebook, where I found a small jewelry company in Mexico using smaller but beautiful pearls. This sparked an idea in my head of what could be done, and I have kept the pearl in the back of my thoughts. Learning about pearls is a stepping-stone to get closer to the world of gemology! I plan on beginning my own endeavors in the world of pearl jewelry and maybe one day even farming, as I see a great amount of potential around several areas.
How did the course improve your skills?
I had no idea about the genius of Kokichi Mikimoto! The history and backstory of the cultured pearl journey to where it is now is legendary! I think many aspects of Kokichi's legacy should be known. I also had no idea about the varieties and colors of pearls. So much love, dedication, ingenuity, and craftsmanship goes into the culturing of these lovely gems.
What is your favorite variety/type of pearl and why?
I am fascinated by Sea of Cortez black pearls! With my grandmother's family originally hailing from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Colima, my intrigue has grown even fonder now that I’ve learned about these gorgeous pearls! I plan on visiting family and exploring the coast of which I have fond memories. I want to understand the legends of my family's motherland and how the pearl is intertwined in the culture. I often wonder why these pearls are the only UV reactive pearls, and how that relates to the Rainbow Lipped mollusk.
What pearl jewelry do you own and which piece do you wear most and why?
Of the jewelry inherited from my grandmother's side, I own a pair of white Akoya earrings that I love to wear because they add a classic, simple yet elegant style to my attire.
What is your favorite piece of pearl jewelry (it doesn’t need to be your own)?
I adore Crevoshay, especially the Pretty in Pink collection and her Tahitian pearl earrings paired with bright pink and green gems. So gorgeous!
Pearl earrings from Paula Crevoshay
Pearls As One student Hope Estella Waggoner