Sacred designs in pearls and gold

A TRIP to Peru inspired a collaborative collection between jewelry brands Joanique and Arao.

The collaboration is called Alchemy, as in the ancient art of mixing elements together in the search to make gold and other precious (and even legendary) materials.

“When we started collaborating, it was more than a year ago. I just came from Peru, what I experienced there was still fresh,” said Joanique founder and creative director Malou Araneta. “I’m still so high from that journey, and I really want to express that in my designs,” said Ms. Araneta.

Joanique started in 2011 and is named after her two children, Joaquin and Monique.

About a year ago, Ms. Araneta went to Peru for a healing ritual. Interacting with the Quesha people of Peru, she sketched patterns that she saw during her trip, and interpreted them in jewels, with the pearls provided by Hong Kong-based Arao. During a luncheon on Sept. 1, Ms. Araneta walked us through some of her favorites.

She picked out a pendant woven in gold like a bird’s nest, an interpretation of the Flower of Life in the belief of sacred geometry, where sacred meanings are ascribed to repeating patterns found in nature. This piece is called T’ika (flower, $2,900 for the earrings, and $2,200 for the matching pendant; most of the pieces are in this price range). “A lot of patterns come from this,” she said about the flower.

Some designs were directly inspired by the Quesha people’s traditional motifs, or patterns found in Quesha weavers’ dreams. For example, she picked out a pair of earrings with a pearl dangling from a leaf. This set is called the Quintu (sacred leaf). “In Peru, it’s very common for them to take coca leaves. It’s like a sacred plant medicine,” she said. Apparently, on hikes, the high altitude makes it difficult to breathe. “So you take this coca leaf so you can breathe. It’s helps you acclimatize.”

A design with a spiral in the center of a sunburst (named Inti, meaning sun), meanwhile, reflects her own journey towards enlightenment.

As dreams and visions differ from person to person, she believes that this translates into her designs. She points out that even in pairs of earrings, for example, no two pearls are exactly identical.

“When you work with natural stones, no stones are completely the same,” she said. “I love working with pieces like that. Imperfection, for me, is beauty.” The fact that the collection is handmade also adds to its uniqueness. “We cannot really have it exactly the same,” she said.

What this says about visions and dreams, she says, “This is my journey. The ideas that I’ve had, the experience during the Peru trip — that for me is very unique. No one can take that away from me.”

View the collection at —  JL Garcia