…I will always be thrilled by the pearls themselves, their colour, lustre and variety…
Jane Brown is among the generous supporters of the CSO’s 2021 Fundraising Gala, having donated a unique Baroque pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings.
Jane takes the CSO back to where her love affair with pearl jewellery began.
My love affair with pearls began with a small necklace bought for me by my husband, Peter, in Hong Kong. With a young family and a newly minted mortgage, it was something we couldn’t really afford – but I was thrilled anyway!
Later that year, we were given tickets to the opening night of Bernardo Bertollucci’s The Last Emperor. The colour, textiles, architecture and majesty of The Forbidden City was unforgettable; little did I know that Beijing would capture my heart and change our lives forever, when Peter took up the position of Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in 1990.
I met Ling Ling in that first year in Beijing, in a tiny market set up against the walls of the Temple of Heaven. We have been firm friends ever since. I would invite Ling Ling to our apartment, where she would sit with family and friends, designing and making pearl necklaces for them on the spot.
Ling Ling’s business has grown over the last 30 years, extending the range and quality of her pearls and training and employing women from all over China. I was right there when the world discovered Beijing’s Hongqiao Market (famously known as the Pearl Market); now, Ling Ling has come full circle and sells Australian South Sea pearls to the women of Beijing!
Our life in Beijing was rich and fulfilling for Peter and me, and our two young sons. Peter worked at the Australian Embassy for five years, while I worked at The International School of Beijing. In my spare time, I took on a passion project for Wang Yarong, a professor of textiles from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Wang was an expert in the ancient art of Chinese embroidery and dying techniques; I sold her superb, embroidered bags to the expat community, with money from the sales going back into her research and development activities.
While my passion lay in textiles, Ling Ling would often say to me that I should do pearl business with her once I returned to Australia. Eighteen months after Peter’s posting ended, I travelled back, tracking down some beautiful carpets and textiles as well as six pairs of pearl earrings – the beginning of my pearl business.
The business has been so rewarding. I’ve made wonderful friends through my visits to the markets in Beijing over the years and across Australia, where I’ve travelled widely to sell my jewellery. I love the customer interaction and will always be thrilled by the pearls themselves, their colour, lustre and variety.
– Jane Brown