Pearl stringer Renata Terjeki was never a devotee of pearls prior to her successful, though specialised, profession as a pearl stringer.
During a recent video interview, 47-year-old Ms. Terjeki remarked, “I never wanted to thread.” Her studio, located in the basement of luxury antique jeweller Bentley & Skinner on London’s busy Piccadilly, has no windows and is lighted only by lamps.
She believed that stringing pearls was a simple task reserved for the elderly: “I imagined that all they do is simply put the pearls on a string, knot it somehow, and that’s it.”
However, the breadth and depth of her work throughout the course of her 15-year career shows otherwise.
Restringing, repairing, and even redesigning some of the world’s most magnificent pearl jewellery is now entrusted to Ms. Terjeki.
According to Ms. Terjeki, secrecy “is an unwritten law in the profession.” She is routinely compelled to sign confidentiality agreements while working on high-end items. However, among her clientele are Bonhams and Sotheby’s, as well as Moussaieff and Bentley & Skinner, all of which specialise in fine jewellery. She has worked with European royalty, as well as the daughter of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin (for whom she made an ornate gold and pearl necklace one holiday season).
In most cases, she is discovered through word of mouth.
Ms. Terjeki began using the handle @stringing along on Instagram in 2015. She wanted to dispel any misunderstandings she had about pearl stringing. There are braided pearl watch straps, black diamond loafer tassels, gemstone curtain decorations, and an old Cartier purse encrusted in tiny pearls among the items on show at the gallery.
According to Ms. Terjeki, precious and semiprecious stone beads, as well as occasional coral, make up an estimated 35 to 40 percent of her work. He answered, “It’s the same method.” Just a new kind of stuff.” In addition, she has the ability to work with ribbon. Some tiara frames are customarily adorned with velvet and hair-colored ribbons by pearl stringers, she noted.
There are already more than 17,000 people following her on Instagram because of the peculiar nature of her profession: Pearl stringers are hard to come by.
Emily Barber, head of jewellery at Bonhams UK, a company that has worked with Ms. Terjeki for 12 years, stated, “She is one of a limited handful of independent practitioners keeping alive this vital ability.” She referred to Renata as the “doyenne of the pearl stringers.”
According to Ms. Terjeki, the number of highly skilled pearl stringers in London has dwindled to just a few.
According to Kristian Spofforth, head of department at Sotheby’s jewels in London, this shortage is most likely due to a decrease in the popularity of wearing pricey real pearls on a daily basis. It was “something you had done routinely” when natural pearls were at their pinnacle in the early twentieth century, according to him. He said that cultivated pearls or less expensive pearls are more popular among today’s fashionistas.
A jeweller by training, Ms. Terjeki found her way into stringing by coincidence when an experienced stringer gave her an apprenticeship.
Rezso Ludvig, a well-known Hungarian goldsmith who worked on the restoration of the royal jewels of Hungary, taught her in Budapest, she claimed. Her work now is a direct result of his determination that all pupils learn to make everything by hand using just the most basic equipment.
Her own tools are basic in comparison to those used by professionals. It all fits in a wooden box she takes with her when she has to thread a piece somewhere because of its worth.
A “gimp” — a small coil of metal that stops the pearl from rubbing against the clasp, a 0.23-millimeter needle — the thinnest available — for threading, and a length of red cotton tablecloth from a housewares shop are among the few materials organised within, according to Ms. Terjeki. Color helps her to easily see the pearls and fabric “has small grooves, which prevents the pearls rolling,” she noted. She explained that knots are tied using a “regular” needle that fits into a circular wooden handle.
Despite the fact that she refused to provide a starting price due to the large number of factors (mostly the kind of customer, the worth of the piece, and the amount of time it would take), the work she does has a broad variety of prices and levels of difficulty.