Paspaley Lavalier collection Paspaley Lavalier collection

Paspaley and the art of pearling

With a history that originates in war-torn Europe and culminates in North Australia, the story of the renowned pearl brand Paspaley is one of adventure and utmost reverence for the art of pearling.



14 February 2014

Australian pearl brand Paspaley has long been revered for its magnificent jewelry creations made from Australian South Sea pearls. The oldest and largest pearling company in Australia, from simple pendants to elaborate creations decked out in stunning gemstones such as sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, throughout its designs Paspaley has remained committed to the aesthetic power of a pearl to mesmerize and entrance. Now with locations within some of the world’s most luxurious shopping destinations, behind the brand’s great success is a legend that stems for a quest to source beautiful pearls.

A Quest for Pearls
It all began in 1914 when Nicholas Paspaley senior fled the Greek island of Castellorizo as a young child with his family, known then as the Paspalis family, during World War I. When the family arrived in Australia in 1919, the only possibility was for them to settle at Cossack on the Indian Ocean coast of Western Australia, the ship’s first port of call. During this time, Australia’s North Coast was the world’s leading place for pearling. Among the few Europeans living in the area, the Paspalis family was surrounded by Aboriginal inhabitants and Asian pearl fishermen. Nicholas’s father Theodosis Paspalis was eager to make a profit in the industry, and when he died in 1924, Nicholas continued his father’s interest in the business. He made his first dive in 1930 and by 1932 he had his own pearl lugger diving for natural pearls and for mother-of-pearl shells that were among the world’s greatest demands at the time.

However, fate intercepted the Paspaley’s pearling adventure on a few occasions. At the beginning of World War II, the Australian government confiscated all pearling luggers in North Australia out of fear that they could be used by the Japanese army for invasion. Then in the 1950s, the demand for mother-of-pearl shell dropped dramatically with the invention of plastic buttons. But the desire to keep his fleet of pearl luggers afloat led Nicholas on another journey – one that would lead him to discover the Australian cultured South Sea pearl for which the brand would become known for.

Nicholas was inspired by the success of the Japanese Akoya cultured pearl industry and aimed to replicate the same in North Australia. In so doing, he set out to resurrect the South Sea Pearl project that had been commenced by Baron Iwasaki in 1916 and sadly put to a halt during World War II. The opportunity was there to take advantage of North Australia’s abundant beds of South Sea pearl oysters in order to cultivate one of the world’s largest and most valuable cultured pearls. And that he did.

An impassioned brand    
While the brand’s heritage rests on the late Nicholas Paspaley’s efforts, it continues to procure the finest natural and South Sea Australian pearls and has been expanding over the last several decades into new markets as well as creating superb pieces of fine jewelry. “The pearl is everything to us, it is our core business,” says James Paspaley, CEO of the Paspaley Group. “We are producing all of our work in Australia and continue to have special boats to do the job.”

The brand uses cultured pearls with a unique natural luminosity available in a variety of colors and shapes. In addition, modern and classical designs compliment each collection expounding upon the brand’s history while also giving the jewelry creations a more contemporary feel. “Our jewelry has no life-cycle; it’s not like fashion that will finish at the end of the season,” adds James. These are pieces that are to be passed down generation after generation. For example, the newly-launched Lavalier collection is more intricate in design and features chrysoprase, rubies and white diamonds, while offering one-of-a-kind pieces with the client’s preferred design as well as the rare Australian South Sea pearl. “The Lavalier is at once classic and fashionable – it works with the times,” says James.

Paspaley recently opened a new boutique in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates affirming its presence in the Gulf’s growing luxury market. Inaugurated in partnership with Damas, one of the Middle East’s leading jewelry and watch retailers, the space offers an elegant and modern setting reflecting Paspaley’s rich heritage as well as the legacy of Nicholas Paspaley’s quest for Australian South Sea pearls.