by Suzanne Daub
This Monday and Tuesday, July 26 and 27, from 10 am to 5:30pm and 6:30 to 9 pm, all are invited to the G.S. Hill Gallery on Straight Wharf to meet the inspired designer behind the Nantucket Pearl Company.
Pam Freitus will be back on Nantucket, and this year the Nantucket Pearl Company is honoring her with an open house rather than hosting their usual private pearl party. “We wanted to thank all our customers for helping us to create the Nantucket Pearl Company from just a single bracelet design,” explained partner Judi Hill.
Pam Freitus’ journey from a career in nursing to one in jewelry design began in 2000, when her husband was transferred to Shanghai, China for three years. A few months into this adventure, Pam’s driver asked if she was interested in pearls. “I love them, they’re my birthstone,” she replied, so he said “I know just the place to take you.” That place turned out to be a three-hour drive through small villages. “We ended up on a dirt road lined with tiny shops…that’s when I started learning about pearls,” she explained. She took classes on how to string and knot, and she immersed herself in the culture of China and the knowledge of pearls. At first, Pam’s driver had to translate for her, but over the months she learned Mandarin and was able to speak for herself.
It was not until her family returned to Texas that Freitus began to import pearls. By then she had many connections. Her pearl business, which she named Pearlhill, grew so quickly that she retired from nursing to devote all her time to this venture. “I import the strands of pearls, but I do all my own stringing and knotting and wirework, and the designs are mine…Most of my designs are one-of-a-kind because I may never have access to the same pearls: they vary from harvest to harvest.”
During a visit to Nantucket in 2008, Freitus visited Judi Hill in her shop (“I’d stop by the G.S.Hill Gallery every time I came to Nantucket.”) Judi admired Pam’s pearl bracelet, and when Pam told Judi the design was hers, a new business opportunity blossomed. “I love to create and design,” said Freitus, “and Judi is amazing at relationships. I took a chance and she took a chance, and it’s been great! I call her my ‘Pearl Partner’.”
Nantucket Pearl Company started with just one design, and now their selection has grown to include dozens of necklaces, pendants, earrings, and bracelets. They even sell a pearl mask lanyard that can be converted into a necklace.
New for 2021 are lots of original earring designs in 14k gold filled: “Gold is coming back in style, with fine, delicate layering…Traditional pearls never go out of style—single strand and the like, so we always have those designs—but women are going back to wearing more delicate jewelry.”
As Pam says, “There’s always a time of day for pearls,” and many of her new designs are casual styles with pearls as an accent along with 3mm faceted stones such as lapis, aquamarine, turquoise, sapphire, and others. “I’m using shades of blue for Nantucket to evoke the sky and the water with gold to evoke the sand…When I make a necklace, I usually make several earring sets to compliment it. And the bracelets are often complimentary, but never an exact match,” Freitus explained.
This year she has also introduced a new “coil” design: it uses “a pebbleshaped pearl, topdrilled so it looks like a teardrop placed on a stainless steel “memory coil”… and for men we have braided leather and South Sea Pearls. We’re doing a lot of custom orders for men.”
Pam Freitus is happy that this new year is bringing new energy: “2020 was painfully slow, but we are rebounding… we’re being more innovative. [The pandemic] shook us out of our niche, but the result is fun and exciting…it’s wonderful to push my boundaries.”
Nantucket Pearl Company Open House will be held this Monday and Tuesday, July 26 & 27 from 10am to 9pm, closing for dinner between 5:30 and 6:30 pm each day. Hosts Judi and Greg Hill along with designer Pam Freitus will be on hand to welcome guests and answer questions in the G.S. Hill Gallery, 40 Straight Wharf (just before the Hy-Line dock).