Jewels of Tradition

Pearls International has always been a family business, and several years ago, when mom and dad asked me to move to Daytona Beach Shores to help out with their flagship shop, it wasn’t a difficult choice.

You see, I’m a rockhound’s daughter, and many of my memories are mingled pictures of Dad hunched over his cutting table and the smell of rock dust and polish. Family car trips were always punctuated by explanations of the regional geological phenomena through which we drove, and I could point out the difference between igneous,  metamorphic, and sedimentary formations while other kids my age were still happy making mud pies. My story is unusual in that – while most people can tell stories about the jewelry in their collection, the jewelry and stones in my collection tell stories about me.

Selenite Hunting in Utah
Sophie and Jim on a sand dune in Utah

We spent a lot of time traveling in the western states, through the Rocky Mountains, collecting bits of flaky mica and huge crystals of smoky quartz. On one trip, we climbed hills in Utah on a whim, searching the surface of the windswept dunes for selenite crystals the thickness of your thumb. A photo shows the two of us silhouetted against the sky, waving to my mom below. I kept my growing rock collection in a fishing tackle box, which I would present in elaborate detail to dinner guests who made the unfortunate mistake of asking about it.

Jim on a rock hunt
Jim ventures into a ravine in search of treasures

On rare occasions our rock hunts would turn up something impressive, as it did on a hike in the Tarryall Mountains, Colorado, when he bent down to pick up an ordinary- looking brown, dirty, lumpy rock.  “Why on earth would he pick that one up, of all the beautiful stones we passed,” I asked, and several days later, after working some stonecutter’s magic, he showed me this:

Smoky quartz egg
300 carat smoky quartz egg


Gemstones await second phase of cutting
Emeralds, garnets, and amethyst await the second phase of cutting

Actually, my dad is not the first rockhound in our family’s history. His grandfather, and likely his ancestors as well, were Italian stonecutters. When jobs became scarce and his tiny old-world hometown shrank to just a few hundred residents at the turn of the 20th century, he packed up his wife and children and immigrated to the United States, where he found work in a Vermont granite quarry.

Great Grandpa Matteo
Great Grandpa Matteo

Little did I know when I enrolled in school for my graduate degree that this piece of my family’s history was just a couple of hillsides away. This is the quarry where my great-grandfather labored for many years, and it was incredible to visit and experience this connection to my past, still etched in the landscape.

Jim visits the granite quarry
Jim (and his pretty pink umbrella) visit the granite quarry in Vermont where Great Grandpa Matteo worked when he first arrived in America
The most meaningful jewelry I own is a pair of garnet earrings my parents gave me when I graduated from Norwich University in Vermont, and they remind me of the very happy trip we took together to the granite quarry.

My story keeps evolving year after year, and the jewelry I wear, admire, give, and care for continues to shape my story every step of the way. I hope that you’ll let our story become a piece of your story, because at Pearls International, you aren’t just buying a piece a jewelry, you’re investing in a handcrafted piece of our family’s tradition!


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