Pearls have always been considered a mystical and divine gift. An aura of fascinating mystery hovers around them. Almost every culture cherishes myths about pearls and their symbolism, but they all refer to the archetype of femininity and the mystery of fertility.

Peggy Grosz, Senior Vice President Assael

Peggy Grosz, Senior Vice President Assael


Assael Triple Row Golden Pearl necklace with Mexican Turquoise, Fancy Yellow Diamonds, and sunny Golden South Sea Pearls.

The ancient Greeks called pearls margarites from the Sanskrit mañg’iara which means gem and from the Persian word murwari, daughter of light. When Alexander the Great conquered the Eastern world, pearls became à la mode and were worn as earrings by both men and women. Aphrodite (Venus in Latin), Goddess of Love, according to the myth, draws her origin from the sea-foam and was born as a pearl, in a shell, as portrayed by the famous Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli in his masterpiece the Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (around 1485 A.D)

Thanks to the rich spoils of war, also the ancient Romans encountered the fascinating world of pearls. Pliny the Elder, Roman naturalist and philosopher, narrates in his Naturalis Historia: There were formerly two pearls, the largest that had been ever seen in the whole world: Cleopatra, the last of the queens of Egypt, was in possession of them both, they having come to her by descent from the kings of the East. “(Book IX) The legend tells of a wager that the queen made with her lover Mark Antony: she would have consumed 10 million sesterces, an ancient Roman coin, in one single meal. During a banquet, Cleopatra asked for a goblet of vinegar. She then took off one of her rare and precious pearl earrings and dropped it into the goblet. The pearl dissolved immediately, allowing her to swallow it in front of an astonished Mark Antony who had to admit she had won.

Assael earrings featuring  unique baroque cut of Rose de France Amethysts and Baroque Tahitian Pearls in Platinum with clip backs, posts optional. 1.35” in length.

All these stories emphasize the uniqueness of pearls, the only gem material formed and found within a living creature. In modern times no one like Salvador Assael, founder of the House of Assael, knew how to redefine the world of cultured pearls. He was acclaimed by the New York Times as a titan of this business. He was called the king of pearls, yet he was much more. He had an unmatched passion for exceptional pearls. The unforgettable Christina Lang Assael, who sadly passed away at the end of 2021, said in a mini-documentary (produced by three-time Emmy Award winner Dean Love and his production company Dean Love Films) about Salvador Assael’s legacy: My late husband was a legend in the pearl world. He was the first to bring South Sea Pearls to North America, and he literally started the global Tahitian Pearl industry.” Salvador introduced the Tahitian Natural Color Black Pearl into the world market and his prestige grew unmeasurably that he became a myth in the pearl industry. He was a genius with a special sensitivity about the themes of sustainability and responsibility that are essential in Assael’s ethics policies.

Assael statement necklace featuring rare natural Zircon (over 62 carats) with multi-colour Fiji Pearls from J. Hunter (10 -12 mm) on a hand-woven 18K gold chain.

When he passed away in 2011, it was his wife Christina who took the reins of the Company and started a new chapter for Assael, introducing rare pearls such as Melo Melo and Conch Pearls. Inspired by Salvador’s pioneering spirit, Christina introduced responsibly sourced rare corals, such as Angel Skin and Sardinian coral, making Assael the foremost supplier of precious coral in North America.

Assael Angel Skin Coral, Detachable Sunset Carnelian, and hand-cut pave Diamond earrings in 18K rose gold. 1.5” in length.

Assael established a fruitful collaboration with the renowned and long-standing Italian coral expert Enzo Liverino (fourth generation of coral craftsmen) from Torre del Greco. Enzo, not only is the President and Owner of Liverino 1894, but he is also the proprietor of the prestigious Museum of Coral, where precious and rare corals are displayed.

Assael earrings featuring Tahitian Pearl, Angel Skin Coral, and Espirito Santo Aquamarines from Brazil, set in Platinum. Clip backs, post optional.

Today, Senior Vice President, Peggy Grosz, has taken over the running of the company, paving the way for a luminous and colorful future. Peggy has been working in the jewelry industry for over thirty years and since 2017 has brought an innovative and modern ésprit to the Assael brand. Her combinations of colored gems with pearls and corals are exceptionally distinctive and open up spectacular new perspectives in the pearl industry. Peggy is the emblem of uniqueness and originality through her approach to the magic of colors, whether her design be classic or not. I interviewed Peggy and asked her to talk about the newest collections and their hero pieces. There are three groups that we would say are the heroes: pieces juxtaposing two elements, which we call ‘Pairings’. Combining two elements can be challenging in design. The shapes, proportions, colors, positioningand craftsmanship must all be right. With only two elements, there is no place to hide.”

Assael Tahitian Natural Color Cultured Pearl and Kreis Cut Morganite ring in 18K Rose Gold.

The use of uncommon, non-precious materials is a hero for us, such as the ‘Sunset Carnelian’ with Angel Skin Coral and single cut diamonds or combining pearls with highly patterned Petrified Wood. Even some of the Turquoise we use is considered less precious because of the golden-woody veining, but with Golden South Sea pearls, it can be wondrous.

Assael Sky and Clouds ring. Violane, Blue & White Japanese Akoya & South Sea Cultured Pearl, Diamond Ring.

“Many pearls have a presence of multiple color tones. Using particular nuances of these pearls with similar colors of multi-color tourmalines has been a success. The multi or bi-color tourmalines that we use do not usually have their colors separated into distinct zones. When our supplier finds rough stones that can be cut to show the colors as seemingly mixed throughout the stone, magic happens with the right pearls.

Assael Princess pear-shaped ring. Fourteen Natural Color Baby Akoya Pearls surround a mesmerizing 7-carat Pear-Shaped Tourmaline.

Who and what are your sources of inspiration?  “I am inspired by how the luster and colors of pearls play with the colors of gemstones and other materials. I feel that the form has been playing a larger part in my design, as well. The more playful examples would be the Modernist pieces that we showed this summer at Couture, Las Vegas. But other distinct forms also intrigue me. A good example would be the very opposite of Modernist, our Akoya Pearl ‘Peter Pan’ collar. It can be worn three ways, but all range from classic to Victorian.

Assael Multi-Strand Akoya ‘Peter Pan’ collar statement necklace with Diamonds and a removable Aquamarine drop.


Stick earrings from the Assael Modernist Collection. Golden South Sea pearls and natural woody veined Sonoran Turquoise set in 18K Gold.

What’s next?

“The two categories I will concentrate on are: the challenge of using the classic combination of Pearls with Diamonds, but in innovative, relevant designs, such as what Sean Gilson did for us with his Bubble Collection for Assael. One example would be using the shapes and luster of Keshi pearls as the main design element.

Sean Gilson for Assael Bubble Tiara/Necklace with SS Pearls and Diamonds.

We introduced some pieces using rare natural, non-nacreous pearls, with color at Couture. There is clearly a demand for such collectible pieces… so more special Natural Pearls in distinct designs are coming, too!

Assael Natural Quahog Clam Pearl ring set in Platinum with Lavender Spinel.

Everything shown above is infinitely more possible because of Assael’s very deep and very fine inventory of pearls and coral. Working with such an inventory of a 75-year-old company is a privilege.”

I am sure that Peggy will continue along the path that Salvador and Christina initiated, and she will surprise everybody with her astonishing designs and colorful creations set with pearls, corals, gemstones and unusual materials.


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Article edit by Laura Astrologo Porché

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