Sometimes the best ideas are there all along. It just takes someone to think just a little bit differently and wow! A design innovation is born. This is the story of a visionary master jeweler.

We all know pearls are created when some foreign material, most often a parasite, gets inside the oyster or mussel. It then gets repeatedly coated with pearl nacre which is a way the shellfish deals with the irritation. Cultured pearl farmers either use a tiny piece of shellfish mantle or a round mother of pearl bead to start a pearl.

Chi Huynh, the Vietnamese born, California based modern jewelry master behind Galatea, took that one extra step no one else had. Rather than the commonly used starter material, he placed diamonds instead inside black lipped oysters. His diamond in a pearl designs are spectacular because he intricately carves the pearls to reveal the diamonds inside.

His is an inspiring story. Like so many inventions, his innovation came about by accident when he unintentionally carved a Tahitian pearl too deeply and exposed the starter bead inside. A light turned on inside his head. Why not insert gemstones inside oysters? He was told by the Tahitian pearl experts it couldn't be done. What they really meant was no one had tried it before so they really didn't know and wouldn't help him. He didn't take no for an answer and tried it out on oysters farmed in Vietnam. As they say, the rest is history. He has gone on to win industry design awards.

This is one truly heart warming story, not just because he is now successful and respected for his art form but it is the culmination of a long and difficult journey for him. Chi was born during the Vietnam war. When South Vietnam fell to communist rule in 1975, the regime's twisted ideology meant educated and skilled people became pariah. He said, "My father, a respected jeweler, was put in jail after the Americans left. He feared for his children, so he started sending us in groups of two and three out of the country."

Imagine, a 12 year old boy, boarding a small boat with 53 others and setting off on a perilous journey to freedom. They were twice robbed by pirates of what little they had and they ran out of food and fuel. A passing ship rescued the traumatised group. Chi eventually arrived in the US in 1980. The experience marked him deeply for he now tries to see the beauty in every day life - a sweet life he does not take for granted.

Via and Via
The Beading Gem's Journal

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