HAS IT really been that long since Grace Kelly was said to have uttered, “I favor pearls on screen and in my private life”? The famous American actress wed Prince Rainier III of the small principality of Monaco, becoming Princess Consort, lending her image to the small nation. During her husband’s reign, reforms to the constitution changed the country’s economic gambling base to its current role as a tax haven for the rich. This then gave the country a reputation of expensive living. In any case, the princess died in 1982, leaving behind a legacy of quiet elegance.
The name of Monaco is important to jewelry brand Misaki Monaco’s image, as it is this legacy that they wish to tap.
“It’s glamor, it’s luxury — it’s a nice love story,” said Stephane Alech, President of Misaki Monaco, alluding to the publicity-rich marriage of the prince and the Hollywood star. “We’re really proud to come from Monaco.”
Misaki itself was born of a love story between its founders, a French photographer and a Japanese illustrator. The brand was founded in 1987, but was acquired by the Alech couple about five years ago. The brand may ring a bell: it frequently sells on airlines and airports, specializing in cultured pearls and “handmade” (read: faux) pearls.
Mr. Alech points to the brands accessibility as in-flight purchases due to their duty-free status. However, he says that they have begun expanding to domestic locations: “We want to extend the market and touch more customers.” The brand has a store in the country at Shangri-La Plaza. It also has stores in over 40 countries and is stocked in more than 30 airlines.
The pearls are cultured, meaning it’s through a process of nature ushered along by man, or else completely handmade by a worker. It might be easy to sniff at the idea, but then remember that the well-worshipped Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel started a fad for wearing veritable mounds of fake pearls. She defended her choice, reportedly saying, “It’s disgusting to walk around with millions of dollars around the neck because one happens to be rich. I only like fake jewelry… because it’s provocative.”
In any case, the pearls are cultured with a special process that lends to them a brighter sheen than the real thing (a nucleus made of quartz, the first step of the process, might be the key).
Lots of pearls are farmed and sold in the Philippines, but Mr. Alech also says about the product that their edge rests on design: “We kept the emblematic and timeless spirit of the pearl,” he said, but, “We really tried to put more modernity and more design.”
He also points to the brand’s anchoring in its headquarters of Monaco (the pieces are designed in Monaco, but made in Japan): “It’s a guarantee of quality and security.” — Joseph L. Garcia